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Lynn Williams salvages draw for Gotham FC in Challenge Cup

The forward scored an equalizer to secure a point for the Goths.

Rob Kinnan/USA TODAY Sports | Gotham FC

In Lynn Williams we trust.

The US Women’s National Team forward rescued a lifeless Gotham FC to a 1-1 draw with the North Carolina Courage, earning a result on the road and retaining the top spot of the Challenge Cup East division.

Williams was amongst the nine players rotated out following the team’s 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Current on Sunday. The 29-year-old was included in a trio of halftime subs brought on to build Gotham back from 1-0 down. North Carolina grabbed a third-minute lead when Mille Gejl Jensen’s far post finish capped off a counterattack spearheaded by Olivia Wingate.

Game Stats
Gotham FC: 10 shots, 2 on goal, 43% possession, 364 passes, 67.6% accuracy, 11 fouls
North Carolina Courage: 9 shots, 5 on goal, 57% possession, 479 passes, 79.3% accuracy, 9 fouls

The most notable inclusion of the rotated lineup of starters was Michele Betos, who shined between the sticks in her first start of the season. The Queens native made four saves on the night, including a penalty kick that would’ve all but killed the visitor’s spirits 11 minutes in.

The save came after a lengthy VAR check that confirmed the referee’s initial decision that Brianna Pinto used an extended arm to block a cross. Betos guessed correctly, diving right to stop Brianna Pinto’s shot three minutes later.

The moment didn’t provide the spark needed for Gotham to develop offensive chances for itself. Working the ball up through the center backs wasn’t effective and long ball passers Brianna Pinto and Allie Long weren’t on the field. The lone first-half chance was Delanie Sheehan’s long-range attempt that flew well over the crossbar.

“We weren’t recording the ball in the final third and when we did we weren’t effective, we were struggling to come out of the pressures, so it was key to come at the half with only goal,” Juan Carlos Amóros said. “It’s one of those halves where everything goes kind of against you so you need people to step up. Michelle and the team in general kept fighting that kept us on the game to be able to change it in the second.”

Bringing on Ali Krieger, Kristie Mewis, and Williams at the break didn’t immediately change the flow of the game. Gotham failed to register a shot on target until Nealy Martin’s 60th-minute effort.

Betos was called upon to come off her line throughout the night, momentarily costing her team to no fault of her own in the 65th minute. The 35-year-old goalkeeper rushed out of the box to close down the ensuing one-on-one with Brittany Ratcliffe, getting a slight touch on the ball with her left foot before taking out the Courage forward. Betos was initially shown a red card, but after another nearly three-minute check, the call was reversed and play resumed with a drop ball.

It took long to develop but Lynn Williams only needed half a chance to find the back of the net.

Williams slowly entered the box in the 73rd minute anticipating Jenna Nighswonger’s cross from the left side. Despite being the only white shirt among five Courage defenders, Williams was first to the ball and made no mistake with her flick toward goal.

The game finally opened up after the equalizer, developing into end-to-end play for the final fifteen minutes of the game. Williams dropped all the way to right back to stop Kerolin after the Courage forward beat Mandy Freeman and was through on goal. Second-half addition Taylor Smith spearheaded late chances for the visitors. The 26-year-old forward moved play up the right side of the field with solo runs past two to three defenders. A chance fell her way in the 86th minute but after doing well to make space for a shot, a last-ditch tackle from Sydney Collins sent a threatening shot out for a corner.

“We were under some pressure, so we made some changes at halftime to show that we wanted to come here to win, to be aggressive and offensive from start to finish,” Amorós said. “The second half was much better. If the game went on for a few more minutes, I think we’d have the chance to get the win. But it was a good point.”

Gotham return to National Women’s Soccer League regular season play on Sunday with a trip to Chicago for the first meeting of the year with the Red Stars. The Challenge Cup returns on June 7 when the Orlando Pride visits Red Bull Arena.

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