Little more than bragging rights were on the line when Gotham FC and Orlando Pride took the field at Red Bull Arena earlier today for the final group stage game of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. Neither team could advance in the tournament – Gotham finished third in Group A with six points out of six games, Orlando fourth with two points – which gave this match the feel of a competitive friendly, a final 90-minute dress rehearsal before the NWSL season starts next weekend.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw, which was a fair result. Gotham FC were the better team, and looked dangerous at times in the attack despite missing forward Midge Purce, but the defense often seemed disjointed and let Orlando get back into the game.
Gotham FC: 16 shots, 4 on goal, 56.1% possession, 484 passes, 76.7% pass accuracy
Orlando Pride: 14 shots, 4 on goal, 43.9% possession, 368 passes, 66.8% pass accuracy
Gotham midfielder Kristie Mewis put in a strong performance, carrying the ball into the attacking third and rattling Orlando’s nerves. She was rewarded for her efforts when she converted Gotham’s penalty one minute into first-half stoppage time to even the score. The 31-year-old US international arrived at Gotham in the offseason – selected by San Diego Wave in the expansion draft, the former Houston Dash star was traded to Gotham in December for $200,000 in allocation money.
If this game is to be treated as a warm-up to the regular season, Gotham should be pleased that the midfield and attack are finally starting to click. The Goths notched only five goals in six games this tournament, and while they didn’t exactly give the scoreboard a workout this evening the team put together a number of nice runs of play that bode well for the NWSL league games. You could see an understanding developing between players on the field.
The defense is another matter. Gotham allowed eight goals in the tournament despite having one of the best goalkeeping tandems in Ashlyn Harris and Michelle Betos, and two of the best defenders in NWSL in Caprice Dydasco and Ali Krieger.
The back-line often looked confused tonight. Orlando’s goal came off a corner in the tenth minute, when Iceland international Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir lost her marker and sent a glancing header into the goal. Gotham’s defenders will need to play more aggressively if the team are to fare better in the regular season than they did in this tournament.
Gotham will have a chance to prove itself soon enough, and against Orlando no less: The two sides will meet again in eight days on Sunday, May 1, in the first game of the 2022 NWSL season. Unlike the game tonight, the upcoming match will count.
Orlando Pride, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir 10’
Gotham FC, Kristie Mewis 45+1’ (P)