Gotham FC vs North Carolina Courage quarterfinals preview

-Gotham FC is back in the playoffs after finishing the year in sixth place

-Here is a preview of the NWSL quarterfinals

Esther González of Gotham FC
Esther González of Gotham FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

NJ/NY Gotham FC is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2021 after a sixth-place finish in the table. After a disappointing 2022 campaign ended in a last-place finish, Gotham returned in 2023 and is hungry for their first NWSL title since the league started in 2012.

The new additions of Lynn Williams, Jenna Nighswonger, and World Cup winner Esther González have helped bring the team to where they are, but can they go all the way to the finals? 

The Bats will first face the North Carolina Courage in the quarterfinals. The match will take place on Sunday, October 22. Here is a look at the playoffs and the upcoming battle.

The Gotham FC playoffs and quarterfinals preview

The defense is key  

Gotham FC had one of the best defenses in the league, conceding only 24 goals in 22 matches with six clean sheets. USWNT legend Ali Krieger has announced her retirement following the conclusion of the season. However, at 39, she continues to be one of the best center-backs. In the NWSL, she had 30 interceptions and 11 blocks.

This season, North Carolina has scored three goals in the NWSL against Gotham, all coming during the September 2nd 3-3 draw. With a team total of 25 regular-season goals scored, The NJ/NY side's key to winning the match is having a solid defense to keep the game in their favor. 

Breaking out of their slump

Gotham FC has been in a slump of late as they are winless in their last three matches, with just one win in their previous eight games in all competitions. In addition, their key goal scorer and superstar, Williams, has hit a huge slump since returning from the World Cup, failing to score in her last six matches played to keep her at just seven goals on the season.  

Veterans Kelley O’Hara and Kristie Mewis have also been hurt the last few months while losing McCall Zerboni to an ACL tear. Their key to breaking out of their slump is finding ways to score goals.

Midge Purce has finally found her scoring ways since returning from a hip injury, totaling two goals in her last five games. González will also be another vital player in the attack, generating two goals in five fixtures played for the team.  

Players to look out for 

The player to watch for North Carolina is Kerolin. The forward has scored ten goals this season, which was second most in the league, while also generating three assists. She also created 35 chances while starting all 19 games played for them. She is on a hot streak as well with two goals and three assists in her last six contests.   

Goalkeeper Casey Murphy has also been the league’s best keeper this season with a NWSL high in clean sheets with nine, while also completing 46 saves and allowing 20 goals in 20 games. There is also USWNT defender Emily Fox to watch out for at the outside back after starting all four matches for the national team during the World Cup in Australia/New Zealand.   

Head-to-head matchups  

In the last five outings in all competitions, the two have been mostly equal. Gotham has won two out of the last five matches, tying twice and losing once while scoring seven and conceding seven. North Carolina will still have the home-field advantage. They have only lost once at home in 2023. The Courage is also the reigning NWSL Challenge Cup winner after a 2-0 win over Racing Louisville FC.

As for NJ/NY Gotham FC, they have won four away matches, losing four while drawing three times in the NWSL. They have also scored 16 goals. Their average away record means the Bats can win as a visitor. Again, their recent slump is the concern.