Just ten minutes into NJ/NY Gotham FC’s 2023 season, rookie Jenna Nighswonger made her National Women’s Soccer League debut. The rookie, historically an attacking midfielder, slotted in at left back, a position she has never played. Nighswonger certainly had her work cut out for her as Gotham’s captain, veteran defender Ali Krieger, exited their season opener away at Angel City FC with a non-contact injury. Gotham would come away with a 2-1 win over the home team, and Nighswonger sighed a breath of relief.
“It was crazy, I had only been playing left back for maybe a week in practice and I think you could see the fear in my eyes as I was going in because I was so nervous,” Nighswonger told The Equalizer. “It’s been such a long season and I still have so much to learn at the left back position, but it’s been fun to learn a new position, learn under my coaches, and learn from my teammates like Bruninha , Ali Krieger, Kristen Edmonds, and Kelley O’Hara.”
Since Nighswonger’s debut back in March, the midfielder-turned-fullback has grown tremendously. With three regular season goals, 35 successful tackles (7th most in the league), and countless midyear accolades—such as the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup All-Tournament Team and multiple Rookie of the Month designations—Nighswonger’s performance helped secure Gotham’s place in their third-ever postseason and has put her squarely in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
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