A New Start for Gotham in September

By: Hannah Oberman-Breindel
Posted: September 7, 2021

NJ/NY Gotham FC put a stop to their three game losing streak, tying the Chicago Red Stars 0-0 on Saturday night. With the draw, Gotham remains in 7th place in the NWSL standings, just outside of playoff position, while Chicago stays in 5th. The game was the first Gotham had played since Scott Parkinson was named manager, taking over for the departed Freya Coombe. Gotham played the game without Parkinson, however, who was absent because of a previously announced family commitment. Becky Tweed, who was Freya Coombe’s assistant coach and has stayed on to serve as an assistant coach with Parkinson, took on head coaching duties for the game. She was assisted by new assistant manager, Bev Goebel Yanez.

Kailen Sheriden had another huge game for Gotham, recording 5 saves and keeping a clean score sheet. Gotham also got good play from their back line, particularly Estelle Johnson, who continues to come up with huge, well-timed tackles.

On the offensive side, Gotham struggled to find a rhythm. Gotham was outshot 18-10, and of their 10 shots, none of them were on goal. Gotham also had fewer corners than Chicago (5 to Chicago’s 12), and crosses (13 to Chicago’s 24). As the statistics would suggest, good scoring chances were few and far between. Gotham’s two best looks on goal came from Ifeoma Onumonu in the 42nd minute and Carli Lloyd in the 87th minute. Onumonu’s chance emerged from a lovely combination play between Carli Lloyd, Nahomi Kawasumi and Caprice Dydasco. Onumonu got the ball on her right foot as she slashed towards the six yard box. But she was well-defended, and the Red Stars cleared the ball without conceding a corner. Lloyd’s chance in the second half was a powerful header off a Dydasco cross. But Gotham needs to create more chances in order to win games.

Gotham has had the better share of possession for most of the matches they’ve played. In this game against Red Stars, the statistics were no different: Gotham held possession for 58.2% of the game to the Red Stars’ 41.8%. Gotham also had more total passes by quite a bit: 483 to 335. And yet dominating possession has not led to more scoring or even more chances. 

Despite the switch from Jennifer Cudjoe (who looked quite good) to Sodam Lee in the midfield at the half, which I imagine was an attempt to ignite the offense, Gotham had no better looks in the second half than the first. Carli Lloyd spent much of the game tracking all the way back into Gotham’s defensive third, both in an attempt to get the offense going from the backline and also because Gotham often needed extra bodies there to contain the speed of the Red Stars in the box. In the 43rd minute (with the Red Stars quickly transitioning after Ifeoma Onumonu’s shot), Kealia Watt drove a shot on goal that Kailen Sheriden expertly saved. In the ensuing corner, the ball bounced along the goal line and it was Carli Lloyd, not a Gotham defender, who danced it out of box and cleared it up field. Lloyd’s workrate is impressive and her defensive presence in that moment was necessary, but Gotham’s defenders and midfielders could do more to set the table for the offense.

It’s clear from Gotham’s lack of consistent offensive production just how important Midge Purce is to this line-up. Gotham has yet to win a game without her. Her speed on the pitch and ability to shoot from anywhere in or around the box demands significant defensive pressure, which opens up opportunities for other players. Gotham is simply a better team with Midge Purce on the field. But Purce is not the only player missing from the front line; Paige Mognahan has been out with a pesky hamstring injury since the end of May. In the 2020 and 2021 Challenge Cup as well as in the Fall Series, Monaghan was an offensive threat for Gotham. She tallied 1 goal and 1 assist in 5 appearances for 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, 1 goal in 6 appearances for 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, and 2 goals, 1 assist, 4 key passes in 4 appearances for 2020 Fall Series. This long gap between matches will hopefully allow both Monaghan and Purce to heal, which would bring a completely different look to Gotham’s offense. 

With all of the recent upheaval — between the firing of manager Alyce LaHue, and Freya Coombe leaving to go to Angel City — Saturday’s game represented an heroic effort from a team desperately in need of some stability. Due to a scheduling fluke, Gotham will have three weeks between games. They don’t play again until September 25th against the North Carolina Courage. In the intervening time, they’ll be able to have another mini training camp and get to know their new coach. Hopefully some of their injured players will get healthy in the meantime. Gotham needs to pick up some points in their next bunch of games in order to make it into the playoffs. It’s still possible, but they’re running out of time.

(Image credit- Nahomi Kawasumi twitter)

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