Preview: NJ/NY Gotham FC (h).
When? Sunday June 20, 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch action? The game will be broadcast on Twitch both nationally and internationally (via the Twitch app or twitch.tv).
Just like Batman would, NJ/NY Gotham Sky Blue FC return to the scene of the crime. What crime, I hear you ask? Well, I guess you can't, technically, classify it as a crime, but it was still a crime in my book. Beating the Orlando Pride should be made illegal. I'm of course referring to the Pride's only defeat of 2021 so far. Gotham came to Exploria Stadium during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, and came away with all 3 points. They scored a goal, and then they must have seen the Bat signal or something, because they scarpered shortly after. Orlando will be seeking revenge, as they look to continue their unbeaten start to the regular season.
I think it's fair to say that Gotham aren't the most expansive or clinical of teams. Having only mustered 29 shots so far this season, with a lowly conversion rate of 6.9% (figure 1) the New Jersey based club have an overall xG rating of 0. Dead last. Though, it's also fair to say that they fare significantly better at the other end. Gotham lead the league with an xGA of 0. They're all about the zeros. They don't wanna score, but also they're not keen on the idea of you getting one either. Don't expect a high-scoring, free-flowing festival of soccer. You're probably not going to get one with Gotham in town.
Gotham have also posted a number of other impressive defensive statistics; this team has won 51 of its 85 tackles, 196 of its 391 duels and 35 of its 73 aerial duels. This is not a team that's going to be easy to break down. Far from it. They are also proficient in possession of the ball, averaging 55% of the overall play on the season so far (figure 2). With an 80.2% pass success rate from 1,915 attempts (479 passes per game), this is a team that's more than capable of dominating the ball, it's just doing something with it that seems to be the issue. This game promises to be a fascinating clash of styles, as Orlando's more direct approach comes up against the more calculated and measured style of Gotham FC. How very Bruce Wayne of them.
Figure 1 shows Gotham's shooting statistics on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows Gotham's possession based statistics on the season so far.
A raft of international friendlies means that both squads have been hit by international call-ups. The visitors will be without the influential Carli Lloyd and Midge Purce. The US' final game was on 6/16, but they are scheduled to take on Mexico 7/1, so both players may not be available for this one. Watch this space. The same goes for Alex Morgan.
Ifeoma Onumonu, Evelyn Viens and Kailen Sheridan both featured for their countries, but all 3 could be available for this one. Imani Dorsey, is expected to be out whilst Estelle Johnson and McCall Zerboni are both injury doubts.
The Pride, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of Jade Moore and Sydney Leroux. Erin McLeod should be back from international duty.
Possible starting XI
There's no doubt we're heading into that time of the season whereby clubs are decimated by international call-ups. As such there will be changes to the squad that lined-up against OL Reign a couple of weeks ago. Gotham prefers to run a 4-2-3-1 formation, though considering the absence of Lloyd, it's possible they'll revert to a 4-3-3 to counter Orlando in the middle. As such I expect them to line-up a little something like this:
It's not very often I select a goalkeeper in this segment, though Sheridan's inclusion seems something of a no-brainer. The Canadian 'keeper has been in impervious form so far this season. Her performance for her national side in their recent draw with Brazil, has drawn much praise. Her club form has been exceptional, too. In her 3 games so far this season she has played all 270 minutes, keeping 2 clean sheets and saving 94.1% of the 17 shots she's faced. Sheridan has bounced back well, from the injury she suffered during pre-season. She's beginning to establish herself as one of the league's top keepers, in the league's most efficient defence. As Gotham's forwards continue to flounder, it's the efforts of Sheridan and her back-line that have kept the New Jersey based outfit in contention.
Whilst Gotham FC, on the face of it, have had a solid start to the season, their lack of goals will be a concern for Freya Coombe. Their 2-1-1 start has been blighted by their lack of goals. Only 2, so far in the season; with the scorer of one (Midge Purce) currently away on international duty. Their 1 goal conceded means they're comfortably the league's most miserly defence, however. Gotham currently sit 4th in the NWSL standings, 4 points behind the league leading Orlando Pride.
As the only unbeaten team remaining in the NWSL, the Orlando Pride are there to be shot at. Their 1-1 draw in Washington, extended their stay at the top of the standings and stretched their unbeaten run to 7 games, in all competitions. The Pride are currently 3-2-0 on the regular season, scoring 7 and conceding 4 along the way.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com