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Gotham FC: Worth the trip to New Jersey

The 2022 NWSL season kicks off this weekend — we preview the team, and profile the players to watch

The only reason why a New Yorker would voluntarily travel to Harrison, New Jersey.

New Yorkers often balk at the idea of going to New Jersey. The age-old rivalry between those who reside in the Five Boroughs, and those who commute in, has been fodder for constant banter — especially in soccer.

But across the Hudson River, in arguably the best soccer stadium in the tri-state area, you’ll find a premier professional women’s soccer team right in our backyard: NJ/NY Gotham FC.

The team rebranded from Sky Blue FC in 2021, embracing their New Jersey roots while extending an outstretched hand to their neighbors to the east. But the fact of the matter is, some of women’s soccer’s biggest superstars are repping the metro area, and it’s time that more New York soccer fans paid attention.

You might already know the team from their social media presence, including the epic game day fit videos, dope merch, and expertly used pop culture references. Gotham FC wants to be the total package: A great soccer team with a great brand.

Now that you know about the team’s identity, let’s get to know some of Gotham’s biggest stars, players who are putting on a show for you weekly on the soccer pitch.

Some might be names you recognize, others might be ones you have heard of, and some you may never have seen before. But these players, along with the rest of the squad, will make you proud to be a Gotham supporter — even if they do play in New Jersey.

Gotham’s Heroes

Margaret Purce

Gotham FC’s fiercest protector is none other than U.S. Women’s National Team player Margaret “Midge” Purce.

Purce first entered the NWSL in 2017, drafted to the now-defunct Boston Breakers. She was picked up by the Portland Thorns the following year, and had a breakout season in 2019.

So when Gotham (then-Sky Blue) picked up Purce during the off-season leading up to 2020, fans could not believe their luck. Signing this young, up-and-coming star was seen as a huge upgrade for a squad that had struggled to score goals and often found themselves at or near the bottom of the table in prior years.

Purce proved pivotal to Gotham FC’s success, helping steer the club into the 2021 NWSL postseason. In fact, that year, Purce tied for second place in the Golden Boot race despite missing six weeks due to injury. Now Purce is known as one of the best one-on-one attackers in the entire league.

Kristie Mewis

When Kristie Mewis was signed by Gotham FC this past off-season, it felt like the team got a hero they deserved. Mewis, who previously played for the Houston Dash, recently became a frequent call-up for the USWNT and was part of the squad that earned the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Mewis is a versatile midfielder and fan favorite whose signing established Gotham as a destination club for top U.S. talent.

The midfielder already notched two goals for the club during the challenge cup, both from penalty kicks.

Ashlyn Harris

This list would not be complete without legendary U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Harris was on the USWNT squad during the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup wins, and was considered a powerful voice in the locker room.

NWSL: Orlando Pride at NJ/NY Gotham FC
Ashlyn Harris for Gotham FC makes a save against her former club Orlando Pride.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Harris has played for a number of teams across the U.S. and Europe, but came to Gotham by way of NWSL side Orlando Pride where she was co-captain with her teammate (and wife) Ali Krieger.

At Gotham, the veteran keeper is already considered a strong, vocal leader on the field.

Ali Krieger

Another U.S. Women’s National Team legend, defender Ali Krieger, has been a welcomed player to Gotham. Krieger is a versatile defender who historically has played as a fullback, but has become a go-to center back for Gotham.

With the USWNT, Krieger earned 108 caps and was part of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup wins. She was also part of the 2016 squad that went to the summer Olympics.

NWSL: Washington Spirit at NJ/NY Gotham FC
Ali Krieger in Gotham’s black and blue kit takes on the Washington Spirit.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Krieger spent some of her career in Germany with FFC Frankfurt, but has also played for a handful of NWSL teams including the Washington Spirit and most recently the Orlando Pride.

The defender has already proven her abilities both at center back and in the fullback position for Gotham and is sure to be a key piece for the club this season.

Ifeoma Onumonu

Born in California, the Nigerian international Ifeoma “Ify” Onumonu is lauded by her teammates and coaches as being one of the best 9s in the league. The striker was drafted into the NWSL in 2017, and bounced around a few times before finding her home in Harrison.

Onumonu is an integral part of the Gotham’s starting XI, often coming up in big moments with late goals to equalize or win matches. Her on-field partnership with Purce has become so synonymous with the success of the team, that Purce once referred to Onumonu as her “bash brother.”

Onumonu began receiving call-ups to the Nigeria Women’s National Team in 2021, and has scored three goals in five appearances.

In the NWSL, the striker was prolific for Gotham last year with eight goals (good for fifth place in the Golden Boot race), and four assists, and will be looking to rack up more goals in the 2022 regular season.

Caprice Dydasco

Last year’s NWSL Defensive Player of the Year was none other than fullback Caprice Dydasco. The defender came to Gotham in 2019 by way of a trade with Washington Spirit, but suffered an ACL injury that kept her out in 2020. It was the third time that the defender suffered such an injury.

When Dydasco came back into form last year, she had an incredible resurgence on the field. Pivotal in both the defense and the attack, the defender even scored her first NWSL goal in 2021.

Local Talent, Global Team

These are only six of the 25-plus players on the Gotham roster this year. They may come from all over the world, but they share one identity - to represent the New York and New Jersey area in the best way they know how.

In fact, after the club’s recent home game against North Carolina Courage in which the team fought their way to a draw, head coach Scott Parkinson talked about why it’s hard to knock Gotham out of a game. “It’s got everything to do with the types of players that we have, in the city that we play in, and in the community that we represent — it’s gritty here,” he said.

Last season, the club battled their way to their first playoff spot since 2013. Although they fell to the Chicago Red Stars in the quarterfinals, it was a marked upgrade for a club that had found themselves at the bottom of the table over the last few years.

The complete Gotham FC roster features players from all over the United States, including tons of homegrown talent from the tri-state including: Ellie Jean (CT), Michelle Betos (NY), Nicole Baxter (NJ), Kelly Ann Livingstone (NJ), Paige Monaghan (NJ), Sabrina Flores (NJ), and Allie Long (NY).

You can also read up on other players right here on SB Nation including team captain McCall Zerboni, center back Gina Lewandowski, and midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe.

So if you like grit, good soccer, local talent, and want to support this growing league, here’s what you should do: hop on the PATH train to Red Bull Arena for the next Gotham FC home game, buy yourself a Brisas empanada, and get ready to fall in love with your local National Women’s Soccer League team.

You won’t be disappointed.