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Five things to know about NJ/NY Gotham FC

Spurred by a new coach and new players, OL Reign’s next opponent is looking to improve from last season.

NWSL: OL Reign at NJ/NY Gotham FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing loss to open their season, OL Reign will be looking for some redemption on Saturday when the club travels to face NJ/NY Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena. The match kicks off at 4:30 PM PT and will air locally on FOX 13+ in addition to streaming on Paramount+ (U.S.) and (international).

Gotham FC relied on its two U.S. women’s national team forwards to spark a come-from-behind 2-1 win on the road against Angel City FC last week. Midge Purce blasted a penalty into the net and assisted on a Lynn Williams goal in the 64th minute.

After finishing at the bottom of the table last year, this looks like a Gotham FC side ready to prove some doubters wrong. Of course, it’s hard to make any predictions after one regular-season match, but here are five things to know about Gotham FC.

A new head coach

After Juan Carlos Amorós led the Houston Dash to its first-ever NWSL playoff berth in 2022, many thought he’d remove the interim tag and sign a long-term deal with Houston. Amorós surprised everyone by making the move to Gotham instead.

At Houston, Amorós implemented an extremely successful high line that put pressure high up the field and often caught opponents in offside traps. It’s unclear at this point if he’ll do the same for Gotham, who have different personnel, but Gotham did manage to pull Angel City into four offside calls in their opening match.

While they’re still working on their identity, it’s clear from listening to Gotham players that they seem to really trust Amorós’ vision, and he proved in Houston that he has a tactical mindset that can work in the NWSL.

A counter-pressing mentality

While we can’t make big predictions about how Gotham wants to play in 2023 after just one match, the new head coach said at this year’s draft that he wants his team to regain possession quickly.

“We want to be a team that dominates all the six moments of the game,” Amorós said. “I am a big fan of the counter-press. We’re trying to regain the ball as high as possible, trying to create chances out of those situations.”

Both of Gotham’s goals in their opening match came from applying that pressure — the first came when Gotham picked off a bad backpass, which led to a penalty, and the second when Gotham forced a turnover in midfield.

Several new players

In an effort to rebuild from a disappointing 2022 season, Gotham welcomed several new players to the squad this year. That includes U.S. women’s national team defender Kelley O’Hara, who chose the team as a free agent. O’Hara is healthy again after missing most of the 2022 season with an injury. Gotham also got USWNT forward Lynn Williams in a trade with Kansas City and acquired midfielder Yazmeen Ryan in a three-way trade with Angel City and Portland.

They also added veteran defender Kristen Edmonds, Brazilian international Bruninha, a 20-year-old fullback that arrived late last season, drafted Jenna Nighswonger with the fourth overall pick, signed Icelandic international Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir, and brought on goalkeeper Abby Smith, who was a backup in Portland.

The team has also reintegrated Allie Long, who missed the 2022 season for a good reason: she gave birth to twins. Long helps the team a bunch in possession, which is something they desperately missed last year.

Deep breaths, because we’re not done yet. The club also signed defender Nealy Martin, who played for Racing Louisville last year, on the waiver wire. And after midfielder Sinead Farrelly retired in December 2016, she signed a one-year contract with Gotham FC this year. This comes after Farrelly played a significant role in getting Paul Riley out of the league and sparking league-wide reforms.

With all these new additions, it took Gotham a little bit of time to settle into their match against Angel City. But when the league’s first VAR review overturned Angel City’s second goal, Gotham came together and organized an impressive comeback.

Gotham’s Formation

Gotham started their regular-season opener in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Bruninha playing on the frontline while O’Hara slotted in at right back. When O’Hara subbed off at halftime, Bruninha moved back to the defensive line.

Smith got the start in goal, and after a bit of a shaky start — getting chipped by Jun Endo from distance on a goal that was ultimately called back by VAR — she made some big saves to keep Gotham in the game.

Edmonds started at left back but shifted to centerback when Ali Krieger — playing her last season in the league — came off in the 10th minute with a knock. Mandy Freeman, who at 28 has played her whole career so far at Sky Blue/Gotham, also started at centerback. When Krieger came off, Nighswonger — traditionally an attacking midfielder — settled in at left back and had a really strong night.

Long served as the lone holding midfielder, with Kristie Mewis playing as a box-to-box midfielder and new-addition Ryan as the attacking midfielder. Purce started on the left wing, with Williams at center forward.

A more organized defense

After Gotham FC gave up a league-leading 46 goals in 22 matches last year, their defensive shape was stronger in their opening match. While the team looked shaky for the opening 20 minutes, they settled down and earned a league-leading 12 interceptions and won 76.5% of their tackles. Their 40 clearances also lead the league after one week, and Gotham won 75% of their aerial duels and 55 overall duels, compared to 50 for Angel City.

Just like the Washington Spirit against the Reign, Gotham wasn’t afraid to let Angel City have the ball — but the team was able to stay compact and organized and then strike in transition. To beat Gotham’s more organized defense, the Reign will need to be a lot better at winning second balls and keeping possession than they were in the opening game.

OL Reign kicks off against NJ/NY Gotham FC on Saturday, April 1, at 4:30 PM PT. The match will air on FOX 13+ in Western Washington and will stream on Paramount+ (U.S.) and (international).

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