NJ/NY Gotham FC traveled to the Carolinas Sunday evening to take on the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL playoffs. Despite the draw against the Kansas City Current last weekend, the games around the Bats ended in their favor. As a result, they finished in sixth place and grabbed the final playoff spot.
There was some concern going into the game, for Gotham has won once in their last seven NWSL matches. The end of the season has not been easy, so the question was out there: could Gotham shock everyone and grab the win against the Courage? It seemed possible since the visitors are 2-1-1 in all competitions against the home team this year.
For the first time in club history, Gotham FC secured their first-ever NWSL playoff victory. The ladies attacked the Courage's goal all night to earn a 2-0 win.
Gotham FC is moving on after their 2-0 quarterfinals win
The match between Gotham FC and North Carolina started in a shaky manner. Both teams had multiple giveaways. Passes lacked confidence and conviction, while some players lacked awareness of where their teammates were. The midfielders especially struggled to put the ball in the path of the forwards.
As the game went on, the teams improved. However, the Courage had the edge over Gotham, for they maintained more of the possession. The offense was quiet too until about the 30th minute. A missed chance in front of goal for North Carolina and an offside chance by Lynn Williams for the Bats energized the fixture.
That increase in energy gave Gotham the edge. Delanie Sheehan put her team in front right before the end of the first half. Her slick shot on the ground quieted the North Carolina crowd. That was also the 24-year-old's first NWSL goal and the first NWSL playoff goal for the club.
In the second half, the high energy continued. The ladies battled back and forth, but North Carolina labored to put the ball on target, let alone get shots off. On the other side, Gotham FC continued to be the bigger threat on the attack. Midge Purce almost put the Bats up 2-0 in the 56th minute with her strike toward the bottom left corner of the goal. Casey Murphy was forced to drop down quickly to make the save and keep the Courage in the match.
The next best chance of the game came around the 70th minute. Esther González had a shot toward the left side of the goal. Murphy had to react fast to keep her team in the fixture.
It was not until stoppage time of the second half that another goal was scored. Lynn Williams looked up and passed the ball at the right time to Yazmeen Ryan. The midfielder shot the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal, and it finally went through. She struck the dagger into the hearts of the Courage fans and gave Gotham FC their first NWSL playoff victory.
Meanwhile, Gotham FC ended the match with a slightly lower possession percentage. In fact, North Carolina spent a solid amount of time near the Bats' goal. Thanks to the defense, the NJ/NY side limited their opportunities. Their best chance came around the 77th minute when Brianna Pinto had an awkward shot that would have gone into the back of the net if Mandy Haught had not made the save.
The Bats are moving on thanks to a strong defense and a relentless attack. This win can give NJ/NY Gotham FC the confidence that they need to play Portland Thorns FC in the semifinals. Oh, and Ali Krieger gets to play one more game before her retirement.