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‘The goal was coming’: Ryan delivers again for Gotham in playoffs

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in history, NJ/NY Gotham FC won a National Women’s Soccer League playoff game. With a 2-0 win against the North Carolina Courage, Gotham put on a full team performance befitting of the postseason. 

Gotham FC faced a familiar opponent in the North Carolina Courage on Sunday night in Cary. Going into the playoff match, Gotham had won two and drawn the other two of the four overall times the two teams have met across all 2023 competitions.

“We obviously got some good results against them especially at home where we won both but [playing in Cary] it was a bit more difficult,” said Gotham FC head coach Juan Carlos Amorós ahead of the match. “It’s a question of being consistent in the performance. They’re a fantastic team with a fantastic coach. It’s a very good match up and hopefully we can win.”

And win they did.

First half, first goal

A very defensive-minded first half led to only one shot produced by North Carolina to Gotham’s six. Two yellow cards were shown to Gotham players Marine López and Nealy Martin as Gotham sought to limit the Courage’s transitional play.

Although the Courage held a slight advantage in possession in the first 45, a late first half goal by Delanie Sheehan – her first of her NWSL career – put Gotham up at the break. 

Center backs Ali Krieger and López directed much of Gotham’s play, boasting a passing accuracy rate of 78.8% and 80% respectively. Krieger also led the team with four clearances.

Second half dominance

The second half saw a Courage side that was looking to take control of the match. Missing their main striker Kerolin, coach Sean Nahas was forced to find other ways to find an attacking outlet during the match, with little success.

Much of Gotham’s defensive soundness amid their high press was due to a high work rate from the attacking line. Both Midge Purce and Lynn Williams could often be found tracking back with well-timed tackles to re-possess the ball and limit the Courage’s chances in their final third. Williams and Purce both won seven of their duels.

A 91st minute goal from Yazmeen Ryan sealed the deal for Gotham with an assist from Williams.

“I felt like the goal was coming, especially with a player like Lynn whose press was amazing in us regaining the ball in the final third, it was just a goal waiting to happen for anyone on the field” Ryan said of her late goal. “It was important to just keep putting myself in those positions to make something happen.”

On to the semis

Gotham showed a complete team performance with Jenna Nighswonger, Sheehan, Ryan, and Williams all creating two chances each. With their successfully employed high press, Gotham limited the Courage to an xG of 0.58.

Limiting the Courage’s opportunities to score and keeping a clean sheet was important to Gotham’s overall gameplan. “It was a tough game,” Lopez said to media after the match. “They are one of the best teams on the ball.”

As Gotham looks ahead to the semifinal match, there will be a two week break with an international window falling in the middle of the playoffs. “We are ready,” said Amorós. “The team knows what is expected of them. For me, we are one of the best teams in the league”

The club’s first-ever playoff win will have them face the Portland Thorns in the semi-finals at Providence Park on Sunday, November 5th. 

“This team is just so amazing and to get to celebrate and keep going with them is everything I could have asked for,” Ryan said after the match. “I’m so proud of us and it’s on to the next.”

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