CARY, NC (Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023) - In only the third NWSL Playoffs appearance in club history, NJ/NY Gotham FC defeated the North Carolina Courage 2-0 in the quarterfinals on Sunday night on the road at WakeMed Soccer Park. Sunday’s playoff match marked several milestones for the club and its players, including Gotham FC’s first-ever postseason win and first-ever playoffs shutout. Additionally, seven of Gotham FC’s starting eleven players made their NWSL Playoffs debut.
From the opening whistle, Gotham FC came out with its signature fast-paced, high-press style of play. Immediately following a missed opportunity by the Courage, Gotham FC had its first look on goal in the 32nd minute. Defender Bruninha chipped the ball over the backline to forward Lynn Williams, who drove to the endline and played a ball across the face of the goal to forward Midge Purce. However, Purce was unable to get a clean shot on goal.
Gotham FC continued to press North Carolina before the end of the first half, which resulted in the club earning a corner kick in the 39th minute. The ball was played in and bounced around until it fell to Gotham FC midfielder Yazmeen Ryan at the top of the box, where she laid the ball off to Rookie Jenna Nighswonger for a first-time shot that went just over the crossbar.
In the 45th minute, Gotham FC found the back of the net for the club’s first playoff goal in NWSL history. Gotham FC maintained possession in the attacking third and eventually swung the ball over to Bruninha, who found midfielder Delanie Sheehan inside the box on the right flank. Sheehan took a heavy touch and toe poked it past the diving goalkeeper to give Gotham FC the lead. The goal also marked Sheehan’s first professional career goal.
With a one-goal lead, Gotham FC pushed forward in the second half in search of a second score. Sheehan received the ball near the middle of the field and quickly played a diagonal ball to Purce on the left flank. The forward took on a Courage defender and fired a low shot to the near post, but it was saved by goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
Shortly after in the 58th minute, North Carolina countered and found forward Tyer Lussi, who drilled a shot on goal, but Gotham FC goalkeeper Mandy Haught made a diving save to the bottom corner that denied Lussi and preserved the shutout.
Gotham FC continued to push forward with a counter attack in the 85th minute. Purce dribbled down the center of the pitch and led Ryan into the box with a pass. The midfielder took on the defender and cut the ball back to her left foot and tried to curl a shot into the far post, but Murphy just tipped the ball away from goal.
A few minutes later, Ryan had another opportunity to seal the game, and she converted. The play began when Nighswonger played a long ball to Williams, who ran onto the ball behind the North Carolina defense. Then, Williams found an open Ryan, who buried her first playoff goal to send Gotham FC onto the semifinals of the playoffs.
Gotham FC will face the Portland Thorns in the semifinals of the 2023 NWSL Playoffs at Providence Park on Sunday, Nov, 5 (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
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