Spirit Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC at Segra Field in Latest Installment of Heated Rivalry

Washington Spirit  |   July 17, 2021
Spirit Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC at Segra Field in Latest Installment of Heated Rivalry Featured Image

LEESBURG, VA – JULY 2: Tara McKeown #27 of the Washington Spirit runs down the field during a game between Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit at Segra Field on July 2, 2021 in Leesburg, Virginia.

Ian Decker

Leesburg, VA., (07/17/2021) – The Washington Spirit will face Gotham FC on Sunday, July 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET at Segra Field. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and Twitch for international viewers. 

Sunday’s outing will be the first regular-season bout between the two East-coast clubs this campaign. They last met in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret, playing to a hard-fought 0–0 draw. The Spirit and Gotham FC meet once more in 2021 — October 6th at Red Bull Arena.

The Opposition
Gotham currently sits in sixth place in the table but has the advantage of two games in hand over most teams. And while NJ/NY is tied for second-to-last in goals scored, they have allowed only three through eight fixtures, better than top-seeded North Carolina’s tally of six.

It hasn’t necessarily been a case of losing to start the season — Gotham has dropped just one game — rather, the NJ/NY-based club has played to a league-high four draws. With a 3–4–2 record, Head Coach Freya Coombe’s side has scored one or fewer goals in seven of eight matches. 

The team is built on superb defense, conceding no more than one goal in any game this season. They are led by the quintet of Caprice Dydasco, Gina Lewandowski, Estelle Johnson, Mandy Freeman and Imani Dorsey. Allowing fewer than half a goal per game illustrates the stingy nature of Gotham’s backline as much as it does the player they have in net: Kailen Sheridan. Despite having played five games, the Canadian shot-stopper ranks third with 27 saves. With Sheridan away on national team duty, backup goalkeeper DiDi Haracic has stepped in and has kept up the strong play, earning save of the week in Week 8.

Up top, NJ/NY is led by Ifeoma Onumonu (three goals) and Midge Purce (two), both of whom are complemented by a midfield trio of Jennifer Cudjoe, Allie Long and McCall Zerboni. With teams missing national team players, Gotham is uniquely positioned to be even more competitive, as players like Purce — recently with the national team — and Long —formerly of the national team — give the unit added experience. 

The Spirit
Washington’s spot in the table — fourth — belies how competitive the top-half of the league is. The top six teams are separated by three points, with sides having played between eight and ten matches. The Spirit’s record of 4–3–2 is good for 15 points. 

After spending most of the early part of the season on the road, Sunday will be Washington’s third consecutive home match. Squaring off against Gotham shouldn’t be anything new for the Spirit. Dating back to the summer of 2019, Washington holds a 2–2–1 record over their bitter rivals, with no team scoring more than twice in a single game and every win being decided by one goal. 

Successfully navigating international windows is vital should a team hoist the NWSL Championship trophy at the end of the season, and the Spirit boast a roster capable of succeeding while their international players are away. Despite missing key players in Kelley O’Hara (USA), Emily Sonnett (USA), Saori Takarada (Japan) and Julia Roddar (Sweden), Richie Burke’s squad has the depth to cover every vacant position. Washington is led by Aubrey Bledsoe in net and the partnership of Sam Staab and Paige Nielsen — who is returning from injury — on defense. Andi Sullivan and Tori Huster lead the midfield and link up with the Spirit’s triad of forwards in Ashley Hatch (Week 8 player of the week, five goals), Trinity Rodman (two goals, two assists) and Ashley Sanchez (two goals).  

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