NJ/NY Gotham FC’s quest for their first NWSL title could soon become a reality after getting a huge 2-0 win against the North Carolina Courage to head to their first NWSL semifinals. Four teams remain as the Bats face a tough challenge going head-to-head with the reigning Champions, Portland Thorns FC. Delanie Sheehan and Yazmeen Ryan came out big as star forward Lynn Williams’ scoreless drought continues.
Ali Krieger is key to the Gotham backline
At 39 years old, Krieger is still one of the best defenders in the league and was the star of the match against North Carolina, leading the Gotham FC defense to a shutout against the home team. Despite it being her last season playing professionally, she was still nominated for defender of the season in the NWSL.
Krieger's teammates not only want to win Gotham its first NWSL ring, but they also want to give the defender her first NWSL title. Not to mention that goalkeeper Mandy Haught has recorded three clean sheets in seven matches since taking over for the injured Abby Smith.
Another bright star in the defense has been newcomer Jenna Nighswonger, who has changed the left side of the field while scoring three goals in 21 games. She is also in line for Rookie of the Year. The fourth overall draft pick from Florida State University has had plenty of success in her first season.
What to do with Lynn Williams?
Despite not scoring, Williams’ role has changed. She has failed to score for Gotham FC since June but has recorded three assists in the last six matches, including one during the quarterfinals. It appears she is changing her style and relying more on the outside of the field rather than making the runs in the box.
At this time, the key player in the attack is Yazmeen Ryan. Signed from Portland, she has scored twice in the last two fixtures and will be hungry to score again against her former team.
Moreover, one cannot count Esther González out. The World Cup winner knows how to play in meaningful matches despite not scoring in her last four games for Gotham FC.
Players to watch out for
It's no surprise that the number one player to watch out for in Portland is Sophia Smith. The reigning NWSL MVP won the Golden Boot with 11 goals and five assists. She's also nominated again for NWSL MVP. However, she has been dealing with an MCL injury and has not started a match since August.
Along with Smith, Sam Coffey was also nominated for this season’s MVP after an upstanding campaign. She’s recorded eight assists, which leads the league, while also keeping a perfect 100% successful passing rating in 22 games played. Also, Morgan Weaver has been killing it for Portland, scoring three goals in her last seven games.
However, their defense has struggled, especially with Becky Sauerbrunn dealing with an injury most of the season. The team has allowed 32 goals, which is the third most in the league. Additionally, they only had six clean sheets during the regular season.
Portland has the slight edge in the head-to-head matchup between the two sides, winning three of the last five while losing just once with a draw. Meanwhile, the Thorns have a 7-2-2 regular season record at Providence Park.
After winning in North Carolina, Gotham FC should be comfortable enough to get another win, especially after scoring six in their last four away games. They will also want revenge after their recent 1-0 loss in Portland on October 7.
The match is set to take place on Sunday, November 5, at 7 PM EST at Providence Park. NJ/NY Gotham FC will try to get their second NWSL playoff win and earn their place in the finals.