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Harrison, N.J. (04/19/2023) – Coming off a decisive regular season road victory in North Carolina only four days prior, the Washington Spirit kicked off the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup with a new Starting XI combination. Four first-year players – Nicole Douglas, Civana Kuhlmann, Paige Metayer and Lena Silano – made starts with all but Metayer notching their first career professional start. The three first-time starters comprised the Spirit attacking front.
NJ/NY Gotham FC took advantage of the Spirit’s new-look lineup, controlling much of the possession in the first 20 minutes of action. Two-time NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Aubrey Kingsbury kept all shots at bay in the first half, including a punch off a Gotham corner and a save on a shot from forward Lynn Williams.
Kuhlmann logged the first shot – and only shot on target – for the Spirit in the first half. However, the most threatening scoring chance came when Metayer played a cross toward the back post where Marissa Sheva made a run on the ball but put it just wide of goal.
The half ended with the Spirit controlling defensive statistics – tackles (+11), tackles won (+9) and interceptions (+4) – while Gotham led most offensive categories – shots (+4), shots on target (+1), shots inside the box (+2) and touches in opposition box (+6).
Though Douglas started off the second half with a shot on goal for the Spirit, Gotham owned the second half of play. Lynn Williams put the first and only goal into the net from a chip pass delivered by Kristie Mewis inside the box. Her goal came in the 56th minute and she is now responsible for two game-winning goals for Gotham FC across all competitions this season.
Kingsbury kept busy in the final 45 minutes of play, thwarting a toe pick in the 74th from Allie Long and a ball from Ifeoma Onumonu in the waning minutes of stoppage time. McCall Zerboni also nearly scored as her shot kissed off the outside of the back post, missing the back of the net by inches. Gotham recorded 23 touches inside the Spirit box – compared to the Spirit’s six touches in Gotham’s box – in the second half alone.
Missing appearances from Ashley Hatch (who ranks second all-time in total Challenge Cup goals) and Trinity Rodman (who leads the club in all-time goals + assists (8) during Challenge Cup matches), the Spirit failed to muster much offensive firepower in the second half.
Dropping this game, the Spirit remains winless in Challenge Cup games that occur on weekdays and has now surrendered the club’s first-ever loss to Gotham in a group stage Challenge Cup match.
This Saturday at 7 p.m., the Spirit returns home to face off against the Houston Dash for a special Earth Day match at Audi Field.
-NWSL Match Report-
Match: NJ/NY Gotham FC vs Washington Spirit
Date: April 19, 2023
Venue: Red Bull Arena
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Weather: Cloudy, low-60s
NJ/NY – Lynn Williams – 56’
NJ/NY: 24- Mandy Haught; 3- Bruninha; 21- Ellie Jean; 11- Ali Krieger (6- Allie Long 64’); 20- Taylor Smith; 19- Kristie Mewis (14- Nealy Martin 64’); 7- McCall Zerboni; 33- Sinead Farrelly (32- Jenna Nighswonger 84’); 10- Lynn Williams (18- Yazmeen Ryan 64’); 16- S. Guðmundsdóttir (23- Midge Purce 45’); 25- Ifeoma Onumonu
Unused Substitutes: 1- Michelle Betos; 12- Kristen Edmonds; 99- Victoria Pickett; 17- Delanie Sheehan
WAS: 1- Aubrey Kingsbury; 16- Maddie Elwell; 3- Sam Staab; 22- Amber Brooks; 19- Dorian Bailey (14- Gabrielle Carle 46’); 25- Marissa Sheva (39- Chloe Ricketts 61’); 12- Andi Sullivan (11- Jordan Baggett 46’); 26- Paige Metayer; 24- Lena Silano; 20- Civana Kuhlman (7- Inès Jaurena 82’); 17- Nicole Douglas (10- Ashley Sanchez 61’)
Unused Substitutes: 28- Nicole Barnhart; 30- Camryn Biegalski; 18- Lyza Bosselmann
Stats Summary: NJ/NY / WAS
Shots: 14 / 5
Shots On Goal: 5 / 2
Blocked Shots: 3 / 1
Saves: 2 / 4
Tackles Won: 14 / 34
Fouls: 11 / 10
Offsides: 3 / 2
WAS – Ashley Sanchez – 75’ – Yellow Card
NJ/NY – Jenna Nighswonger – 90’ – Yellow Card