|photo from AP/Ben McKowen
by Anthony J. Merced
Gotham FC are heading into their first ever NWSL Championship game on Saturday against OL Reign in what has been described as an unlikely, or miracle run, that has seen the sixth and final playoff team emerge after two road wins against North Carolina and Portland. Despite some being unsure as to how this could have happened, team captain Ali Kreiger, who celebrates her final professional game on the big occasion, felt that the team manifested this outcome with their attitude.
"We've really spoken this into existence," said Kreiger a day before the big game. "We've prepped ourselves in manifesting that we would already be here. I think that's what's really exciting. That we're putting everything into action. All the words we've spoken throughout the year."
While the team isn't interested in the year-over-year comparison that saw this last place club do a complete 180 degree turnaround to make this final, it is undeniable that Kreiger's leadership and the team's willingness to embrace their new style has led them to this point. Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego in the culmination of a journey that has seen the former Sky Blue FC transform into a Gotham FC club that no longer wishes to be bound by previous expectations.
"We've enjoyed this week," said Kreiger. "Our main focus is to show up and play our game and win."
That winning mentality has been groomed by first-year head coach Juan Carlos Amoros, who has drilled a specific tactical style into this team. On occasion there have been missteps, one of which saw them fall from third to sixth on the last day of the season. However, they not only embraced the challenge but succeeded in delivering Amoros' style on the largest stage for women's soccer.
Both Portland and North Carolina presented differing challenges. Still, Gotham's poise and tactical stability showed through in less than optimal conditions.
"The consistency of being ourselves on and off the ball, home and away, everyday at training, has really been key," said Amoros. "They are such a resilient group. The more things go against them, the more they step up to the challenge. For them to implement everything the way that they've done is amazing."
Gotham and OL Reign will look to raise their first NWSL Championship in club history on Saturday and also celebrate the final game of women's sports legends Ali Kreiger and Megan Rapinoe.