Things are looking up for NJ/NY Gotham FC. After seven games, they sit fifth in the National Women’s Soccer League table with a game in hand on those above them. They have just one defeat on the record. The results are promising, but perhaps more important at this stage is the change in style. Freya Coombe has successfully built a team that backs up her early vision, and the signing of Allie Long has been integral in this sense.
When Coombe was appointed head coach of the club on a permanent basis in late 2019, she told The Equalizer about the way she wanted her side to play. “Very much a possession-based style,” she said. “I like to keep possession of the ball, [to] be able to focus on moving the ball quickly in attack.”
The desired changes have been seen on the pitch. Gotham are fourth in the NWSL for ball possession, averaging 52.7% this season. They have enjoyed the majority share of possession in every single one of their seven games thus far, even out-possessing the Portland Thorns. For context, in 2019, Gotham were bottom of the NWSL in this metric, averaging just 44.3% possession.
Within the 4-3-3 formation and the possession-based game Coombe prefers, the pivot role is crucial. Sitting just in front of the defenders, this player is responsible for directing a lot of the team’s play. Having the ball is different to using the ball, and it takes individuals with the requisite technical and tactical skills to turn all of that possession into an effective attack. Few are better suited to performing the pivot role, in this style, than Long.
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