Harrison, N.J. (04/18/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face NJ/NY Gotham FC Wednesday night in both sides’ first UKG NWSL Challenge Cup match of the 2023 season. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey and will broadcast on Paramount+ for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on NWSLSoccer.com as well.
The Spirit enters the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup after a runner-up performance in the 2022 season, falling to North Carolina in the final. Playing in the East Division of the Group Stage portion, the Spirit will face off against the North Carolina Courage, NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Orlando Pride throughout the year.
The Spirit own a 3-2-5 record in Challenge Cup group stage games and have never lost one against Gotham FC (1-0-2). In those three games, the Spirit scored four goals.
The most recent matchup between the two sides was a regular season match resulting in a 2-0 Spirit victory, with goals coming from Tara McKeown and Ashley Sanchez. This was the last victory for the Spirit in the 2022 season. Last season, the Spirit went 2-1-1 against Gotham through all competitions.
Forwards Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch have both accounted for five goals in Challenge Cup group matches, the most in team history. These ten combined goals account for two-thirds of the team’s 15 all-time goals in group stage matches. Through all Challenge Cup games, Hatch has logged seven goals, the most on the team and tied for second in NWSL history. She was last year’s Challenge Cup Golden Boot winner.
The Spirit has two of the three all-time minutes leaders in NWSL Challenge Cup history – goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury and Ashley Sanchez. Kingsbury ranks second (1485), while Sanchez ranks third (1421). They trail Houston Dash defender Katie Naughton by 26 and 90 minutes, respectively. Additionally, Kingsbury owns the NWSL Challenge Cup record with five shutouts on 11 games played. Last season, Hatch, Rodman and Sanchez were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Last Saturday, the Spirit defeated the North Carolina Courage, 2-1, in a tantalizing regular season match. This marked only the second time in club history that the Spirit began the season unbeaten through three games.
Following Wednesday’s match, the Spirit will travel home to play the Houston Dash at Audi Field this Saturday at 7 p.m EDT. While the team concludes its three-game road trip, it will play its third match in only a week on Saturday.
NJ/NY Gotham FC, playing its first season with Juan Carlos Amorós as head coach, is coming off a regular season victory that saw two record-setting goals. Gotham FC forward Midge Purce set the record for latest goal scored in an NWSL match when she successfully executed a penalty kick in the 10th minute of second half stoppage time. Seven minutes later, Purce was outdone by fellow forward Lynn Williams. Purce assisted on the goal that would erase her record and is now tied with 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith for the most assists in the league (2).
Williams now holds the record for the latest NWSL regular season goal, as well as the latest NWSL Playoff goal – coming against the Washington Spirit in the 124th minute of the 2016 Spirit v. Western New York Flash playoff match. Her 59th career goal, Williams is now tied with Christine Sinclair for the second-most goals in NWSL history. Purce’s penalty kick also extends a streak of six successful Gotham penalty kicks.
Last season, Gotham FC finished in third place in the East Division of the Challenge Cup, failing to make it to the knockout stage. The side earned six points on a 1-2-3 record. However, in 2021, Gotham advanced to the Challenge Cup Final, losing to Portland Thorns FC in a penalty shootout (6-5). Midfielder Kristie Mewis is tied for fourth all-time with five Challenge Cup goals.
Next up, NJ/NY Gotham FC will play the North Carolina Courage in two of its next three matches – a regular season matchup on April 22 at Red Bull Arena and on the road in a Challenge Cup game on May 3. The side will also head to Kansas City to face the Current on April 30.
- UKG will double the prize pool for the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup, bringing the first-ever million-dollar prize pool to U.S. professional women’s soccer. UKG and the NWSL are co-launching a “Challenge Accepted” campaign which emphasizes the unwavering support for equity both on and off the field.
- The Spirit leads the series history 14-10-8, with an 8-5-2 record on the road and a 6-5-5 record at home. The Spirit drew in the only neutral site game (Herriman, UT) between the two sides during the 2020 Challenge Cup. The 32 matchups through all competitions between the two sides are the most in Spirit history.
- The only Spirit road victory during a group stage Challenge Cup match came against Gotham FC.
- The Spirit is winless (0-2-3) in weekday Challenge Cup matches.
- Ashley Hatch is the only Spirit player to score on a penalty kick in a Challenge Cup group stage match, doing so against her former team in April 2022.
- Trinity Rodman’s goals + assists total (8) in the Challenge Cup leads the team. The next closest player has five.
- During the 2023 NWSL regular season, Gotham FC’s six yellow cards are tied for the most in the league.
- Former Spirit players meet again:
- Gotham FC defender Kelley O’Hara played with the Spirit from 2021-22. O’Hara won an NWSL Championship with the team, scoring the game-winning goal in the championship game.
- Gotham FC defender Ali Krieger played with the Spirit from 2013-16. Krieger, who played for Mark Parsons during his first stint as Spirit head coach, is embarking on her final season in the NWSL.
- Gotham FC midfielder Kristie Mewis played the first half of the 2017 season with the Spirit.
- Gotham FC forward Taylor Smith played for the Spirit in 2018, starting in all 23 games in her lone season with the team.
- Former college teammates meet again:
- Spirit defender Camryn Biegalski played with Gotham FC midfielder Victoria Pickett at Wisconsin (2016-19).
- Spirit midfielder Ashley Sanchez played with Gotham FC midfielder Delanie Sheehan at UCLA (2017-19).
- Spirit midfielder Marissa Sheva played with Gotham FC defender Ellie Jean at Penn State (2015-18).
- Spirit defender Gabrielle Carle played with Gotham FC forward Jenna Nighswonger at Florida State (2019-21).