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Instant Reaction: Gotham win first-ever playoff match

The Goths soundly defeat the North Carolina Courage 2-0, will next face the Portland Thorns in the NWSL Championship Semifinals.

The Goths have a lot to celebrate | Courtesy Gotham FC

The Gotham FC vs North Carolina Courage quarterfinal was slated to be an even matchup between teams that balanced each other out. 

A Gotham attack reinforced by the summer signing of World Cup-winning striker Esther Gonzalez needed to find a way to score against a North Carolina that had given up just 22 goals in 22 league games. On the other end of the field, a Gotham defense with a second-choice goalkeeper and an injury-plagued backline needed to hold back a North Carolina attack missing Kerolin, a Brazilian striker who came second in the NWSL Golden Boot race and who accounted for more than one-third of her team’s goals.

It was Gotham’s streaky attack vs North Carolina’s stolid defense, and North Carolina’s suddenly defanged forward line vs Gotham’s iffy backline. 

It was a fight between equals, but something had to give. That something was the Courage, who let in one goal at the end of the first half and another at the end of the second half to fall 0-2 at home in the NWSL Championship Quarterfinals.

A monumental win for Gotham

It was a monumental win for Gotham, who were in the playoffs for just the third time since joining the NWSL in 2015, and who had never won a postseason game until now.

Let’s linger on that for a moment: Gotham won a playoff game for the first time in club history.

This Gotham were able to succeed where past iterations failed. Remember, the club formerly known as Sky Blue FC once featured international superstars such as Sam Kerr (2015-2017), Mallory Swanson (2020), and Carli Lloyd (2018-2021). These are players who had spectacular careers for club and country, but for a number of reasons they couldn’t get the job done at Gotham. Or at Sky Blue, as it were.)

This team are different. A Gotham with Gonzalez, Midge Purce, and Lynn Williams in attack, Allie Long and Sinead Farrelly in midfield, and Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, and Bruninha in defense, and Mandy Haught in goal, might be flawed, but they got the job done. 

To be perfectly honest, the scoreline flatters Gotham: North Carolina put up a fight. But it is an accurate reflection of which was the more creative side, and the more opportunistic. Gotham created chances, and did enough to find the back of the net.

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Next up: Portland Thorns

Now Gotham have two weeks to rest and recover before flying across the country to rainy Oregon where they’ll face the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on November 5. 

North Carolina didn’t put up much of a fight on the attacking end — they took six shots, four on target, but failed to create any big chances. Portland won’t be as forgiving. They controlled the game when they faced Gotham at Providence Park on October 7. They took nine shots that day, and created one big chance, which they converted to win 1-0. 

Portland also snuffed out Gotham’s attack, allowing the Goths to enjoy the majority of possession but not letting them to get many good looks at the goal. 

But that’s two weeks away. Now Gotham head coach Juan Carlos Amóros has fourteen days to prepare his team to win the second playoff game in club history.