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Washington, D.C. (07/27/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face NJ/NY Gotham FC in the Spirit’s penultimate group stage match of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup on Friday night. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. EDT at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. and will broadcast nationally on Paramount+ for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on NWSLSoccer.com.
Entering the match following a decisive loss to the North Carolina Courage, the Spirit looks to bounce back in a big way versus a challenging NJ/NY Gotham FC opponent. Losing to the Courage 0-6, the Spirit suffered its largest margin of defeat in any match in team history. It was the first time the Spirit allowed six or more goals in a game since a 2-6 road loss to the Reign in May of 2017.
At halftime in last week’s match, the score was tied 0-0 – the first time neither team had scored in the first half (all competitions) since August 3, 2019. The previous six meetings in Cary had seen at least one first-half goal. Additionally, both sides were held without a shot on goal in the first half, joining the May 4, 2023 OL Reign v. Angel City matchup as the only ever matches in Challenge Cup history without a first half shot.
Most recently, the Spirit played Gotham FC on May 28 in a regular season game at Audi Field that resulted in a 1-1 draw. Bruninha opened the scoring for Gotham in the 20th minute with her second career goal in as many career shot attempts at the time. Paige Metayer scored the equalizing – and final – goal of the match off a header. She became the first Spirit player since teammate Trinity Rodman to score twice in the first nine games of their first season.
These two teams are quite familiar with each other, but this matchup will feature a new look for the two teams with many players missing for international duty during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Washington and Gotham enter the match having played five times in Challenge Cup history, including a 1-0 Gotham win in April – then the Spirit’s first loss of the 2023 season (all competitions). There have been seven goals scored in the fixture with five of those seven coming from players at this year’s World Cup (Rodman – 2, K. Mewis, Sanchez, Williams).
Following Friday’s match, the Spirit travels to Orlando to face the Pride in Washington’s final group stage Challenge Cup match on Friday, August 4 at 7 p.m. EDT.
Gotham FC enters the match following a 3-1 victory against the Orlando Pride. It was an emotional match, as Gotham captain Ali Krieger played her final match at Exploria Stadium, a place she called home for many years. It was the first 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup match meeting between the two sides due to the postponement of the previous two matches.
The Pride’s Megan Montefusco opened scoring for Orlando in the 9th, but Gotham responded with three unanswered goals. It was the second time in 2023 (all competitions) that Gotham won an away match that it trailed in (March at Angel City). Gotham had one comeback road win in the previous five seasons combined (July 2021 at Washington).
Both McCall Zerboni and Jenna Nighswonger had a goal and an assist in the win over Orlando. It was the second time since 2015 that Gotham had two players with a goal and an assist in the same match in all competitions with Kristie Mewis and Midge Purce also accomplishing the feat against the Pride in 2022.
Following a league-worst showing in the 2022 regular season, Gotham has displayed much improved form in 2023. Gotham is one of four teams that has not dropped a single game in this season’s Challenge Cup. The team is currently in second place in the East Division standings, one point shy of the leading North Carolina Courage. However, Gotham has played one fewer game than the Courage. They are 2-0-1 (7 points), allowing only two goals in its three matches.
Gotham is also one of the best defensive teams in the NWSL. Gotham has allowed only two goals this Challenge Cup, tied with Racing Louisville FC for second-fewest in the NWSL. The team has also conceded the third fewest regular season goals (14), allowing less than one goal a game. Combined, the 16 goals allowed throughout the regular season and Challenge Cup are tied for the least in the NWSL with the North Carolina Courage. Coincidentally, the Courage sits at the top of the NWSL regular season table with 26 points and at the top of the East Division with 8 points. Gotham trails North Carolina by one point on both tables.
Next up, Gotham FC hosts the North Carolina Courage in a battle of the top-two East Division squads. The match will be at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 5.