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Game Preview: Challenge Cup

Updated: Mar 15

Gary Gibson



Listen to the latest podcast with Gotham FC Midfielder Nealy Martin.

Clash of the Champions:  Reigning Champs Gotham FC look to win their 3rd piece of hardware in 4 matches as they take on the Shield winners San Diego Wave in the  UKG Challenge Cup on March 15th at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ.. Both teams boast star power and ambition, making this a highly anticipated clash. Also, last season’s visit from the Wave set an attendance record. Look for this game to be just as raucous as Gotham announced upper bowl tickets for sale. 

San Diego's Ascendance:

The Wave, led by head coach Casey Stoney, are no strangers to success. They finished last season atop the regular-season standings, earning the Supporters' Shield. San Diego is bolstered by the return of key players like national team attackers Alex Morgan and Jadyn Shaw.

Gotham's Quest to to be the Best:

Gotham FC, under coach Juan Carlos Alonso, enters the season with a target on their backs. The core that propelled them to the championship last year remains largely intact, with the exciting addition of multiple former #1 picks and national teamers midfielder Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn, and central defender Tierna Davidson. Look out for Gotham's dynamic attacking trio of national teamers Midge Purce and Lynn Williams, paired with World Cup Winner Esther Gonzalez to test the Wave's defense.

3 Keys to Gotham FC's Success:

Containing Alex Morgan:  Morgan has a dominant record against Gotham FC, scoring 6 goals in their four meetings, including a four-goal performance in 2022. Shutting her down will be crucial for Gotham's success.

Controlling the Midfield:  Gotham boasts a strong midfield with the triumvirate of Delanie Sheehan, Yazmeen Ryan, and this week’s podcast guest Nealy Martin that dominated one of the most experienced midfields in Sonnett, Lavelle, and Fishlock in the NWSL final. Now they are boosted by two of those midfielders in Lavelle and Sonnet. During the Women’s cup run the trio overwhelmed Racing Louisville’s Midfield and didn’t allow service to Racing’s forwards. Most likely the National teamers such as Lavelle and Sonnett will be coming off the bench as they haven’t participated in their Gotham’s preseason. Their ability to control possession and dictate the tempo will be vital, especially against San Diego's in keeping the ball away from Morgan and Shaw..

Capitalizing on Set Pieces:  Gotham has not had a proven track record of scoring from set pieces. However, with the addition of Maycee Bell, it gives Gotham a threat to change games as an aerial target. Look for her to start as the National teamers recover. Creating opportunities from corners and free kicks could be a significant advantage.

A Match to Watch:

This Challenge Cup matchup promises an exciting battle between two of the NWSL's top contenders. San Diego will be hungry to prove themselves against the champions, while Gotham seeks to assert their dominance from the get-go. The team that executes their game plan effectively and capitalizes on their strengths will have a significant edge in lifting the trophy.

Head to Head:

Gotham has never beaten the Wave in 4 tries. Being outscored 10-1 in the process. 

Final thoughts:

This time will be different. Gotham has solidified their identity and is looking to evolve in the attacking third. Could be the largest crowd ever for a Gotham Match. Get tickets. Going to be an incredible night. 

Gotham will most likely roll out the tried and true. This is a championship match after all. Look for Gotham to rely on the players who know the system best and look for the new national teamers to come off the bench in this one.

Injury report:

Projected starting 11

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