NJ NY Gotham FC's season was historically bad. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. They were currently riding a record 12 game losing streak. They were also in danger of being the first team in NWSL history not to draw a match for an entire season. a -30 goal differential. 3 off of the league record.
Enter the opponent. The Portland Thorns came into Red Bull Arena looking for a win. Sitting at the top of the table by 1 point over the OL Reign. A win clinches the NWSL Shield given out to the team with the most points at the end of the season. Portland is ultra-talented. National teamers galore. Led by USWNT striker Sophia Smith and CWNT legend Christine Sinclair. Portland brought out their best line-up and sought to impose their will on a Gotham team trying to rediscover their identity.
Gotham FC and their fans, led by their supporter group Cloud 9 (@cloud9goth on twitter) had other plans. Gotham breaks their 5-game scoreless streak when Kawasumi finds a loose ball in the box and blasts a near post shot. The first time Gotham has scored first since July 31st. Gotham finds themselves in familiar territory as the lead evaporates close to halftime and enter the half down 2-1. The second half starts the way the first half ended. Morgan Weaver hitting a scross (shot/cross) and Gotham is down 3-1. This game should have been over.
Yet, the crowd kept cheering and singing. The players never lost hope. In the heart of this team sat two veteran leaders in Krieger and Zerboni. Both rallied the team to keep fighting. Gotham kept pressing. Midge kept taking on defenders. On the second goal, Ifeoma showed her smarts and athleticism by running behind the defense, backing off and making a delayed diagonal run towards midge but the ball doesn't come. Then she identifies the space at the back post and Midge hits her in stride for a leaping volley past Bixby. Patience, precision, perfection.
When it mattered most, it just had to be Zerboni. It just had to be. The captain that had been through so much these past two seasons. From the GM debacle, to ending this season on her 3rd head coach in a season in a half. To losing her midfield anchor for the season in Allie Long. This season is one of, if there wasn't bad luck there would be no luck. Is there anything more symbolic than this group of embattled warriors in a triumphant group embrace around their captain to close out this season? The moment started when Mewis played a picture-perfect corner and McCall seemingly unmarked meets it at the spot for the goal. Zerboni bookends the regular season by being the first and last goal scorer.
We all deserved this moment. The 4500 fans in attendance felt like 20k as it was the loudest I have heard that arena in the Gotham Era.
Lastly, in another symbolic, demon vanquishing moment, Betos the keeper sporting a black eye made a world class save in the dying moments to preserve the draw. There is no greater example of this teams Jersey/New York grit than that moment.
Here are three quick takeaways.
We can't, and we won't, and we don't stop.
Whether the shield was actually in Harrison or not is irrelevant. This group of warriors needed no more motivation than sending the top team packing with their shield hopes in doubt. Gotham needed to prove to themselves and to the world that they can compete with anyone. That their record doesn't define them or their quality. Seeing players like Kawasumi throwing her body into tackles. Hearing Krieger's voice through the arena encouraging them to keep battling. Mewis spraying pin point balls around the pitch like it's on a string. This team fights to the end.
A perfect end to a rough season.
It's not how you start but how you finish. There was something about this game that showed promise that this team is going to be ready to compete next season. The negative tractor beams this team was being pulled by seems disconnected now. The team is now free to dictate their future. This team scored 3 good goals from the run of play. All of them earned. All of them earlier in the season for some reason would not go their way. A new star in Bruninha has arrived. The possibility of a new coach bringing new and fresh ideas. The top pick in the draft. New owners and investment. This feels like a clean slate.
Best fans and supporters in the league.
For a cold, rainy game with essentially nothing to play for. It seems the supporter group and the fans in this arena didn't get the memo. This crowd was electric. Red Bull Arena is a magnificent soccer specific stadium. The overhang keeps the sound down and it was deafening at times. We all need to bottle that energy up and be ready to release it again when we open Red Bull Arena in 2023.
Next up for the podcast is our post season awards show as voted on, by you the fans. Due out Thursday as always. Followed by an offseason wish list episode where a panel discusses contract status of the players and what we want to see from this club going into the offseason. Then we will be back either with more player interviews or a pre-college draft special.
In the meantime, please check out our latest if you haven't. We interview Gotham FC outside back Ellie Jean and dig into her amazing journey of self discovery in a special Hispanic Heritage Month episode. https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/OpvoJuSoOtb