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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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Gotham FC vs. Portland Thorns: NWSL Semi-final Match

Photo+from+NSWL
Photo from NSWL

The 2023 National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs have been keeping soccer fans on the edge of their seats. To start off the post season, Gotham FC, which was ranked 6th going into the playoffs, beat the third ranked team, North Carolina Courage. Gotham won the game 2-0, with goals by Delanie Sheehan (assisted by Bruninha) and Yazmeen Ryan (assisted by Lynn Williams), leading them to the exciting semi-final match that happened on Sunday, November 5th. In this semi-final match, Gotham FC faced off against the number two ranked team in the league, the Portland Thorns, who, along with San Diego Wave (who played against OL Reign on the same day), had automatically gained entry into the semi-final match. Gotham FC ran a 4-1-4-1 formation and Portland Thorns ran a 4-2-3-1 formation. The starting line-up for the Portland Thorns was S. Hogan in goal; B. Sauerbrunn and E. Menges as center defenders; M. Klingenberg and R. Reyes as fullbacks; R. Rodriguez and S. Coffey as center defending midfielders; O. Moultrie as a center attacking midfielder; C. Dunn and M. Weaver as wingers; and S. Smith, last year’s BioSteel U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, as striker. The starting line-up for Gotham FC was M. Haught in goal; A. Kreiger and M. Lopez as center defenders, J. Nighswonger and Bruninha as fullbacks; N. Martin as a center defending midfielder; E. González and D. Sheehan as center midfielders; Y. Ryan and M. Purce as wingers; and L. Williams as striker.

Two minutes and twenty-one seconds into this game, a foul was called on S. Smith, giving A. Krieger a free kick in Gotham’s defensive end of the field. Portland got the ball back relatively quickly, working hard to try and maintain possession. Eventually they got control of the ball, passed it through the center to switch the field. One of the players from Portland crossed the ball into the 18-box, but unfortunately no one was able to get a foot on it. Around the five-minute mark S. Smith tried to pass a through ball, but the ref called M. Weaver offsides, which allowed Gotham to try to start building up their attack. They gave the ball away to Portland in the center of the field around the sixth minute, but quickly got it back when C. Dunn’s tried to pass the ball up top, but O. Moultrie is not able to get a foot on it, leaving it for M. Lopez of Gotham. Gotham managed to keep control of the ball this time around, resulting in J. Nighswonger getting a cross into L. Williams who heads the ball from the center of the field. The shot went to the right and was easily caught by Portland’s keeper. Throughout the first half Gotham had a total of 6 attempted shots and Portland had attempted 3 total shots, but the half ended in a 0-0 tie.

The second half began with S. Coffey taking the kickoff. The ball went straight to a Gotham player who immediately attempted to dribble up the line before being forced to pass the ball back. From there, the ball ended up rebounding off of a Portland player, giving Gotham a throw in. Portland got the ball from the throw in, but Gotham quickly got it back, making their attack up the center of the field. Once up towards the 18-box, Gotham took their time, focusing on keeping possession away from Portland until they could get a shot they like. Around the 46th minute the ball got to an open player on the left side of the field who crossed it into the box, where it was saved by S. Hogan. In the 49th minute, E. González (assisted by M. Purce) got the ball and took a right-footed shot from the left side of the box. The shot is, again, saved by S. Hogan. Around the 55th minute a Gotham player tries to pass the ball up the field, but it was intercepted by M. Klingenberg. The ball gets to S. Smith, who passes it back to M. Klingenberg who took a shot at goal. The ball hit off M. Haught’s leg; M. Klingenberg tried to get the ball back, but the sideline ref called M. Klingenberg offsides. Portland would get another chance on goal in the 68th minute, when S. Smith, assisted by C. Dunn, took a left-footed shot from the right side of the box. The ball was blocked by a Gotham player. At the end of the designated ninety minutes, the game was still tied 0-0, so they went into extra time. Because this was a semifinal match, the game could not end in a tie. If after extra time they were still tied the teams would have gone into pk kicks, but that did not happen. Around the 106th minute R. Reyes takes a free kick around half field, after a foul is called on Bruninha. The ball goes back and forth for a bit until K. Mewis, who went on for E. González in the 80th minute, gets the ball. Gotham, with control of the ball, made their way up the field where K. Mewis passes the ball to K. Stengel, who went in for D. Sheehan in the 100th minute. K. Stengel took a left-footed shot from outside the box to the top left corner. And with that Gotham is up 1-0! The game still went on, but unfortunately for Portland they were not able to get the ball in the back of Gotham’s net.

Throughout the game, Gotham and Portland were very equal opponents. They both had relatively equal amount of possession throughout the game, Gotham admittedly a bit more, as well as being close in the number of shots, saves, and shots on target. The one thing that one could argue that Gotham without a doubt surpassed Portland in, in terms of stats, is the number of yellow cards. Gotham had four players (A. Kreiger, M. Lopez, J. Nighswonger, and N. Martin) that earned yellow cards and Portland had one player (H. Sugita, who came for R. Rodriguez in the 59th minute) that earned a yellow card. With a 1-0 lead, Gotham FC is heading to the NWSL Championship for the first time in history. The game will be on November 11th against OL Reign at 8 pm ET. This Championship game is going to be exciting for fans of both teams, because M. Rapinoe (OL Reign) and A. Kreiger (Gotham FC) are going to be retiring after their NWSL season ends. In other words, after this upcoming game is over, so is their career as professional soccer players.

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Em Marlay-Wright, Staff Writer

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