|photo from Gotham FC
New Jersey/New York Gotham FC returned to Red Bull Arena for the final match in the group stage of the 2022 Challenge Cup. With six points and a -3 goal differential in the group stage, Gotham will have a chance to regroup before the regular season begins in May.
Power from the Start
Both teams roared out of the gate with advances on goal in the first five minutes of the match. An early injury for Orlando Pride's Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir paused the game. Undeterred, Jónsdóttir scored the opening goal of the match in the 10th minute. Her glancing header from a corner kick blasted past Gotham GK Ashlyn Harris. Another corner in the 17th minute was cleared by the Gotham defense. Forwards Paige Monaghan and Ifeoma Onumonu made runs on goal, but to no avail. When Monaghan was brought down in the box in the 40th minute, an emphatic crowd demanded a call from the head referee. Calls were answered for a different takedown just before stoppage, which led to Kristie Mewis converting from the spot to open the scoring for the home team. Onumonu and Monaghan nearly paired up for the go-ahead goal in stoppage time, but the teams went to the tunnel on level terms.
Dominant but Incomplete
Gotham FC came out ready to battle for all the points at the start of the second half. They maintained possession, stringing together passes and forcing turnovers. Nearing the hour mark, the Gotham attack went into high gear, putting Orlando ‘keeper Kaylie Collins to work. Collins was credited with three total saves on the night. Although the Pride were able to make a threat on goal, Harris was able to make the block. Gotham continued to keep things in their favor, with the ball staying in the attacking third, with Monaghan, Onumonu and Kumi Yokoyama each threatening a goal. Midfielder Caprice Dydasco shone in the right channel, breaking up play and sending the ball forward. But the barrage of shots, 16 total, were largely off frame. The Gotham bench as well as the crowd groaned when the likes of Mewis, Cameron Tucker, and Delanie Sheehan could not find the back of the net. The final whistle blew, and the scoreline was still level.
There is still nothing like a live match. Every time Gotham thundered down the field, the crowd swelled. The person watching at home can’t possibly get that.
It can be frustrating to see a team unable to finish their chances. But there is clear potential for Gotham FC to clean up any issues in front of goal. Then the standings will look very different during the regular season.
Both Gotham FC and the Orlando Pride are done with the Challenge Cup. They will both be able to use what they learned when they meet again for the regular season May 1st.