Preview: NJ/NY Gotham FC (a).
Updated: Apr 23
When? Saturday April 23, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for residents of the United States, and on Twitch for international supporters.
The NWSL Challenge Cup isn't panning out how I expected for either of these teams. Last weekend Orlando were hit for four for the second consecutive week, whilst Gotham FC were given another footballing lesson by a Washington Spirit side that are starting to look every bit the championship winning side they are.
Make no mistake, though, this will be another stern examination for Amanda Cromwell's side. Gotham are a team stacked with quality, players like Caprice Dydasco, Kristie Mewis and Midge Purce to name just a few.
So, without further ado let's get stuck into another fascinating match up for the Orlando Pride.
Gotham's game against the Spirit was tantalizingly delightful viewing for a number of reasons, not just on the pitch. Ashlyn Harris' very public spat with Trinity Rodman on Twitter added a bit of extra spice to the encounter. Ultimately it was a game where Rodman and co. had the last laugh; the Spirit completely outplayed Gotham in their own backyard (Garden State, geddit?). The Spirit out shot Gotham 18-6, whilst putting them to the sword, 3-1. They just looked the more threatening of the 2 sides throughout the games. Gotham stayed true to their possession based ideology, but struggled with their passing accuracy (71.9%) which allowed the Spirit to recover the ball in key areas and hit Gotham on the break. Orlando are going to need to get to grips with their own pressing game to force turnovers. It can be done.
One thing that really stood out to me was how well the Spirit exploited the wide areas. The Spirit were excellent in transition, and did an excellent job of isolating Caprice Dydasco and Imani Dorsey (then Ali Krieger after the 34th minute). The pace and trickery of Ashley Sanchez and Rodman really put the Gotham defence on the back foot. The Spirit hit 27 crosses (figure 1). Gotham experienced similar issues in the previous game against the North Carolina Courage, where the team from Cary hit 36 crosses (figure 2). If Orlando can get the ball down the flanks with the likes of Darian Jenkins and Courtney Petersen they could have some joy.
Figure 1 shows the Spirit's cross positioning matrix, whole 90, in their recent game against Gotham.
Figure 2 show the Courage's cross positioning matrix, whole 90, in their recent game against Gotham.
Jennifer Cudjoe is suspended for this one, whilst Sabrina Flores and Gina Lewandowski are missing through injury and COVID-19 respectively. Allie Long is on maternity leave.
As for the Orlando Pride, Angharad James is out and listed as an excused absence. Caitlin Cosme, Erin McLeod, Sydney Leroux, Parker Roberts, Marta and Vivianna Villacorta all continue to be absent through injury.
EDIT: 4/24 Vivianna Villacorta has been removed from the SEI list and is available for selection. Erika Tymrak and Meggie Dougherty-Howard have been added to the 'out' list. Carrie Lawrence is suspended. Amy Turner and Courtney Petersen are questionable. Angharad James has been removed from the list and is available.
This section will be updated as and when new information becomes available.
Possible starting XI
Scott Parkinson has assembled a decent looking squad this season, which is why I'm surprised they haven't hit any form yet. I can't imagine them making too many changes, especially with their current absentee list. Therefore I wouldn't be surprised to see an unchanged XI in their favoured 4-3-3.
The influential midfielder has played all 4 games so far in this Challenge Cup, totalling 296 minutes. The USWNT star has adapted rather well to her new surroundings in The Garden State, scoring 1, chalking up 1 assist and 6 key passes. She's yet to hit her very best form, as are Gotham, but the idea of her recapturing said form is a rather disconcerting notion as far as NWSL defenders are concerned. Let's hope she doesn't start this weekend.
Gotham are 1-2-2 so far, having lost 3-1 to the Spirit last time out. They currently sit 3rd in the 4 team group. Their only win so far came against the Pride. I know you know that, but still...
The Pride, meanwhile, are 0-1-4 and currently sit bottom of the group.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Top player image courtesy of NJ/NY Gotham FC.
B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.