Gotham FC falls to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 in 2023 playoff rematch

  • Gotham's five-match unbeaten streak against North Carolina was snapped
  • Gotham failed to score for the second time in the first three matches of 2024
Gotham FC
Gotham FC / Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, NJ/ NY Gotham FC fell to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 in the teams' first meeting since their matchup in the first round of last year's playoffs. This was the first time North Carolina had beaten the Bats since their 3-0 win back in September of 2022.

This game came off the heels of contrasting fortunes for both teams the previous week. North Carolina lost to the Utah Royals 2-1 on the road last Friday in a game that they had every opportunity to win. Gotham came off of a 1-0 win at Portland Thorns FC, a game where they had every opportunity to lose.

A first half of traded chances

The game started quickly with both teams having good opportunities early on. In the ninth minute, Gotham FC almost scored from a Bruninha free kick that glanced off of the forehead of Tierna Davidson, who captained the side for the first time tonight, just wide of goal. This was followed a minute later by a chance for North Carolina where a weak backpass by Davidson was taken advantage of by Bianca St-Georges, forcing a save from Cassie Miller.

After most of the first 30 minutes was dominated from a possession standpoint by Gotham, North Carolina had the best chance for either team to that point. In the 34th minute, a Courage cross found Ashley Sanchez in the box whose first-time shot went just wide. This was followed by a Gotham chance in the 40th minute that saw Emily Sonnett force a turnover. Yazmeen Ryan picked up the ball at midfield, drove forward, and then ripped a rocket of a shot off the crossbar.

Shortly thereafter the only goal of the game was scored by North Carolina. In the 44th minute, in a very similar sequence of play to their chance just ten minutes earlier, a cross from the right side found Sanchez whose header toward the goal was deflected in front by Brianna Pinto, leaving Miller helpless in goal, and Gotham down at halftime.

More of the same in the second half

The second half started in a very similar manner to the first, lots of Gotham possession and pressure, but very little in terms of actual chances.

The Bats' first chance came in the 62nd minute when Esther González had her free kick blocked by the wall, and was then followed up nine minutes later by a corner that both Davidson and second-half substitute Katie Stengel had chances to put in but failed to convert.

In the 86th minute, a potentially controversial situation played out. After North Carolina sub Tyler Lussi went down with what appeared to be cramping, she was then let back on to the field behind the Gotham backline in a manner that helped give the Courage a real scoring chance. Thankfully for the Bats and the referee, nothing came out of it.

Gotham FC would have one last chance three minutes into stoppage time as Jenna Nighswonger had her shot from just outside the box blocked in a last-minute sequence of play. Once again, the visitors created a lot of pressure without many good chances.

Final takeaways from Gotham's loss

In terms of positives to take away from this loss, two stand out. Gotham's defense continues to impress even with a change at right-back with Bruninha replacing Kelley O'Hara in the starting lineup. The goal they conceded was not a result of poor defending but more a result of good play and a little bit of luck for the Courage.

Secondly, Maitane López was off the injury report and returned to the field, coming on as a sub in the 65th minute, replacing Sonnett. This very obviously squashes some of the fears that her injury suffered in the Challenge Cup was not overly serious.

As for negatives, the goal-scoring and chance creation remains an issue. While it is somewhat understandable that Gotham has not been able to create and score too much given their opponents, the San Diego Wave, Portland, and North Carolina, are slated by many as being championship contenders.

Their next game for Gotham FC is after the international break. It will be the NWSL home opener, where the Bats will play the Kansas City Current. And while Kansas City has opened the season with three wins from three, they have given up seven goals this season, which is only behind Portland's eight at the time of writing.