NJ/NY Gotham FC will begin their title-defending season soon, with the season about a month away. They have revamped their lineup with multiple World Cup champions planning to make their team debut on March 15 against the San Diego Wave for the NWSL Challenge Cup.
It does not seem like there are weak links in the team, but who are the players that need to step up for the upcoming campaign?
Two Gotham FC players must step up
Getting Kelley O’Hara back into shape
Kelley O'Hara is entering the final years of her career and has seen a decrease in form due to her age. She only made nine starts in 16 appearances during the 2023 season, missing matches due to injuries. The 35-year-old also hasn't scored in the league since 2021, back when she was with the Washington Spirit.
Getting her form back will be a big boost for Gotham due to her versatility. It also does not help that she was left off the upcoming CONCACAF W Gold Cup roster later this month.
On the bright side, this could give her more time to improve her form before the start of the season. Whether on the pitch or the bench, O’Hara will still bring her leadership and experience to help the team in any way she can.
If the team decides to stick with their 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3 formations, O’Hara could see her time at right-back again. She will compete with the Brazilian Bruninha, who is posed to take the starting role. She can also be utilized in the midfield, and on rare occasions, the wings.
Bruninha’s goal is to solidify a starting spot
Bruninha had a solid 2023 campaign during her first full year in the NWSL. She started 20 of the 22 overall matches played, recording an assist while producing 23 interceptions and 41 crosses (six accurate). She will see her starting role jeopardized with several new signings to the team this offseason.
Her goal during the preseason is to prove that she can keep her regular role. The advantage she has is her age. At just 21 years old, Bruninha will enter her third season in the league. She was also able to keep healthy all last year and has been impressive with her speed and crossing ability from the right side of the field.
The question is who will get that second starting wingback role for Gotham? It’s a no-brainer that Jenna Nighswonger is keeping her left-back role, but who else would join her? Bruninha is a natural right-back and finished the season starting all of the playoff matches.
Either way, with Bruninha left off the Gold Cup W roster for Brazil, it will give her more time to prove her form ahead of the 2024 season. Nothing is guaranteed, so she and O'Hara will likely compete for the right-back role.