Finding value in players like Delanie Sheehan and Ella Stevens

  • Gotham FC does a great job of finding valuable players
  • This includes those who were expected to be depth players, but have made the starting lineup
Gotham FC
Gotham FC / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Like a lot of other leagues, the NWSL is a star-driven league. Fans saw this last year with NJ/NY Gotham FC where their best players were their star players. Lynn Williams, Ali Krieger, Midge Purce, and Esther González were all considered to be the NJ/NY team's best players in 2023 and they all performed en route to a championship.

In addition to these well-known star players, clubs need role players to fill in the cracks and sometimes play above their expected performance level. Gotham FC has done an incredible job at not just finding these players but coaching them up and helping them blossom into important members of a championship-winning team.

Gotham FC knows how to find great players

Perhaps none of them exemplify this more than Delanie Sheehan. Sheehan went from a 4th round pick and a national team replacement player to a key contributor to Juan Carlos Amorós' system. She has started in all eleven league games this season and has played the third most minutes on the team.

Typically, getting any meaningful minutes from a 4th round pick can be considered a win. Having one of them blossom into a player of Sheehan's level is not just a win for the player, but reflects well on the organization who very clearly had a plan, and executed that plan incredibly well.

The same could be said for Mandy Haught. She was brought back as a depth goalkeeping signing before the 2023 season after being drafted by Gotham in 2020 and then spending two seasons in Sweden beforehand. After spending the first half of the season as the backup, Haught was called to start after Abby Smith suffered a season-ending injury in June. The goalkeeper not only held her own but arguably played better than Smith and her performances in the playoffs last season helped save Gotham FC's season at multiple different points in time.

Lastly, there is Nealy Martin. The player was acquired via waivers after the 2022 season. Again, like 4th round picks, getting meaningful minutes from a waiver pick-up can be a major win. Not only did she give the team meaningful minutes, but like Sheehan and Haught, Martin blossomed into a key starter in 2023, starting all three playoff games.

These players in addition to other value acquisitions like Sinead Farrelly and Katie Stengel all came in with relatively low fanfare. Additionally, there were lower expectations regarding their ability to have a severe impact on the starting lineup. Thankfully, they ended up massively outplaying their roles and filling in when needed in a championship-winning season.

Some of the 2024 depth additions have been fantastic for Gotham FC

It seems this trend has continued into 2024 with players like Maycee Bell, Cassie Miller, and Sam Hiatt all playing significant minutes so far this season. They have provided plus value despite their acquisitions being heavily outshone by the big USWNT signings that were made this offseason.

That being said, the player who could end up being the best of them all is Ella Stevens. Stevens was signed as a restricted free agent from the Chicago Red Stars. She has not looked back since earning a starting spot at the beginning of May.

The forward has scored four goals in her last four games, matching her total from all of last season. She is ultimately playing so well that she is keeping Crystal Dunn on the bench more often than not. It is probably not a coincidence that Gotham saw an uptick in goals once Stevens started to see the field more consistently.

One would be forgiven for looking at her acquisition coupled with the rest of the offensive firepower that Gotham had and wondering how she would find a meaningful role. It would not be shocking if people inside the club had that same thought.

Despite this, she has bided her time and took the opportunity and ran with it when she got even just a sniff of an opportunity. This not only speaks to Gotham FC's ability to identify talent but also cultivate a competitive environment that makes players better and ready to step into a bigger role when needed.