On Sunday, NJ/NY Gotham FC played in the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs. After winning against the North Carolina Courage, the ladies traveled west to take on Portland Thorns FC. A few weeks ago, the Bats lost to their opponents during their rough patch to end the season. Yet, there was hope that the win in the quarterfinals would lead to a confident performance.
Despite the rainy and dreary evening, the match was full of fun and action. The loud Portland crowd cheered their team on. Meanwhile, Gotham FC attempted to drown out the noise and just focus on the task at hand.
The game had plenty of drama but lacked in the goal-scoring department. After 90 minutes, extra time was needed due to the 0-0 score.
It was extra time when Gotham FC booked their place in the NSWL Playoffs Championship match. The Bats won 1-0 thanks to a goal by Katie Stengel.
Gotham FC won 1-0 and will play in the finals
Unlike the North Carolina game, both teams had quick starts. They created offensive sequences and created chances. While there were no clear-cut chances throughout the first 20 minutes, the opportunities were there, for Gotham and Portland had two shots each. At the same time, the two defenses worked well to help protect the goals.
As the first half progressed, the players continued to run up and down the pitch, exchanging periods of possession. It was Gotham FC that controlled the majority of the possession and opportunities.
In the meantime, Jenna Nighswonger was the biggest threat from the Bats in the first half. She took her own shots, which included a 15th-minute power shot that was easily caught by the Thorns' goalkeeper. Then, in the 36th minute, the rookie took the free kick outside the right side of the box. She could not get the ball to dip though, for it hit the top of the net.
Nonetheless, the first half ended scoreless. There was a scary moment in stoppage time when Mandy Haught went down after a collision. Thankfully, she was okay and able to continue.
The second half did not change. Gotham FC and the Portland Thorns continued to battle it out. However, no one could put the ball into the back of the net. The Bats had the slight edge with attacking chances, while Portland increased their pressure to maintain more possession.
As time went on, things began to become shaky for Gotham. The defense became messy at times, and there were too many chaotic moments in the box. Portland increased their attacking chances in the final third. Somehow, the Bats kept the home team out of the goal. It helped that Haught had three saves during the 90 minutes. Her awareness in the 79th minute to leave her line and grab the ball was a vital moment to keep the score level.
Although, they continued their chances. In the end, Gotham FC had 11 shots, with two on target in regular time. Alas, the score remained 0-0, and the match went into extra time.
It would take until the 107th minute for the deadlock to be broken. Stengel, who came off the bench in extra time, scored a beautiful curler into the top left corner of the goal. Her shot came from outside the box and put Gotham in front.
Moreover, Portland controlled the majority of play in extra time. They were the bigger threat. The difference was Stengel's goal. Now, Gotham FC is going to their first NWSL Playoffs Championship.
The win against Portland was everything. The chance to take home the trophy after finishing the 2022 season in last place is an incredible accomplishment. Regardless of what happens next weekend, NJ/NY Gotham FC should be proud. Of course, a win would be amazing.