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NJ/NY Gotham FC, North Carolina Courage, San Diego Wave — American Soccer Analysis



By J.J. Post

I started writing Gotham’s preview for ASA in 2021, so this will be my third time around manning this piece for the site. The theme of each edition has been, for better or for worse, similar: optimism. 

2021 focused on the club’s rebrand and new image on the back of a promising Challenge Cup performance during a unique COVID-affected season. 2022 discussed how Gotham could build off their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade.

2023’s preview will be optimistic because… well, things can’t really get much worse. 2022 was a nightmare season for Gotham on the pitch. 2022’s xGA overperformance crashed down to earth without all-league keeper Kailen Sheridan in net for the first time in years. Gotham conceded the most xG in the league (50.05) and conceded 52 actual goals, good for the second worst mark in the league.

The offense lagged as well, as Gotham generated the second lowest total xG and scored the fewest goals outright. The team didn’t score a single goal in the month of September (before exploding for three in the season’s final game). A misfiring forward line and struggling midfield created a less than potent attacking combination. They finished last in ASA’s total team G+ differential table. 

As you might imagine, the results were not pretty. Gotham’s final win of the 2022 campaign came on July 8th. Their record over the final 17 games of the season was 1-1-15. 

As you might also imagine, Gotham got busy over the offseason. Here’s a position by position breakdown of the roster and who the team will be expecting to step up in 2023.


A central question entering last season for Gotham was how exactly the team would replace the excellence of Kailen Sheridan. With Sheridan in San Diego, Gotham had a hole the size of 5.31 expected goals at ‘keeper. The team attempted to fill that hole with a platoon system – with two league-tested veterans Ashlyn Harris and Michelle Betos sharing minutes in net.

As you might assume from the first five grafs of this article, that plan… worked less than perfectly. Neither goalkeeper ever fully won the starting position, and neither came close to the xG defying heroics that came to define Sheridan’s tenure. Now, holding most goalkeepers to Sheridan’s standard is near impossible, especially in front of the leaky defense Harris and Betos were charged with commanding. But it’s hard to imagine Gotham wasn’t looking for better than the G-xG values of 3.17 from Betos and 4.83 from Harris.

As such, goalkeeper became the first position on the roster where Gotham made significant changes. Abby Smith, most recently a backup with the Portland Thorns, was brought in on a three year deal to give Gotham a fresh face between the sticks. Smith’s data from the previous two seasons is limited given her deputy role, but the limited data that does exist is positive – or perhaps negative? Smith posted a -1.35 G-xG in 2022, good for the 5th best mark in the league.


Veteran USWNTer Kelley O’Hara was signed to shore up a backline that lost former league defender of the year Caprice Dydasco to a late season trade. Just one returning Gotham defender recorded a positive G+ score in 2022. O’Hara fits that description. Gotham also dipped into the pool of New Jersey-raised NWSL talent and brought home Kristen Edmonds, an ex-Rutgers star who carved out key roles in Western New York, Orlando, and Kansas City over her last nine years in the league. Edmonds graded positively on ASA’s G+ tables as well, posting her best results in the all-important “interrupting” category.

Away from the stat sheet, the pairing should bring some additional experience and consistency to a unit that lost two of its most senior members in Estelle Johnson (now with the North Carolina Courage) and Gina Lewandowski (retired). 

Elsewhere in the defense, Gotham will mostly be sticking with their existing guns and hoping for a step forward and more consistency. Mandy Freeman quietly enjoyed a strong 2022, the one constant for Gotham amidst an often inconsistent backline. If Freeman can establish a strong partnership with Edmonds, there should be a major boost in the defensive numbers in Harrison. Ali Krieger offers another veteran presence in the center of the park. 

Imani Dorsey has been through everything with Gotham at left back, and should be in line for another season of heavy usage this year. Elsewhere at fullback there’s Ellie Jean, who has ample international experience but never fully found form in 2022, and Sabrina Flores, who enjoyed a breakout 2020 campaign but has struggled for minutes since. Bruninha rounds out the list, bringing some promise and potential to a largely veteran core in her first full season in the league.

Player to watch: Nealy Martin. Martin, who spent two years with Racing Louisville after a standout career at Alabama, was one of Gotham’s first acquisitions of the offseason. It remains to be seen what her role will be in new coach Juan Carlos Amorós’ system – Martin was a rotational player for Louisville who only played roughly 600 total minutes – but Gotham clearly saw something they liked and moved quickly to bring her in off waivers. One of the few young faces in a largely veteran defensive group, Martin could be in line for serious minutes if any of Gotham’s older centerbacks require rest.


Gotham also made it a point to try and strengthen their midfield over the offseason. Perhaps the biggest “addition” to the center of the park for the club is Allie Long, who should slot right into the starting XI. Long took the 2022 season off due to maternity leave, and Gotham’s midfield was noticeably shakier without her metronomic and hyper-accurate passing at the base of the operation. She should immediately add a calming presence and defensive solidity to a unit that was run ragged in many of the team’s worst results last year.

Elsewhere in the ball-winning department, locker room leader McCall Zerboni is back for another season. One of the league’s most respected culture-setters off the pitch, the three time NWSL champ’s ball-winning efforts have yet to wane with age. 

What Long and Zerboni can’t solve, however, is Gotham’s creativity problem. Last season, per FBRef, NJ/NY ranked dead last in total progressive passes. It wasn’t especially close either – Gotham was one of just two clubs to not break the 700 PrgP mark – and the other club (Orlando Pride), still easily outpaced them.

Gotham, unsurprisingly, knew they needed to get more creative. Victoria Pickett was brought in via a mid-season trade and brought with her a boost to the attacking midfield corps. General manager Yael Averbuch used her only pick in the first three rounds of the NWSL draft on Jenna Nighswonger, a national-title winning midfielder who’s at her best progressing the ball. 

Kristie Mewis will also have a major role to play in Gotham’s midfield becoming more dynamic in 2023. Mewis produced just 2 goals and 3 assists in NWSL play in 2022, and her xG and xAG (per FBref) of 2.0 and 3.7 don’t show a significant underperformance of underlying numbers either. So what changed for Mewis, who had produced at least 7 xG+xAG per season since FBref began its database? At age 30, Mewis should be entering the back end of her prime, not tailing off. Amorós’ new system, which has been hinted to place an emphasis on pressing and direct passing, could be key in bringing Mewis back to her best. 

Player to watch: Yazmeen Ryan. Ryan was the first of two major draft day acquisitions by Averbuch (more on the second later). Capable of playing either along the front line out wide or through the middle as an attacking midfielder, Ryan could fit into Amorós’ plans in a number of different ways. Ryan showed flashes of being a top tier chance creator for Portland and in her college days at TCU, but couldn’t break into the Thorns XI on a full-time basis. She’s in line to get a chance to take her game, and Gotham, to another level in 2023.


On the note of draft day additions, Gotham’s banner offseason acquisition was Lynn Williams. As far as attack-changing additions go, Williams is about as good as you can get. A USWNT staple at the peak of her powers, Williams notched 9+ goals each of her last four full NWSL campaigns. She’s got speed (and is willing to use in in a press), she’s got a final touch, and she could be the missing piece that unlocks the rest of Gotham’s attacking trio: Midge Purce and Ify Onumonu

Anyone who’s watched NWSL in the last three or so years knows the name Midge Purce. After a baffling miscasting at fullback early on in her Gotham career, Purce has spent the last several years being the main source of light on otherwise struggling front lines in Harrison. Purce led Gotham in G+ in 2022, and was in first place by light years.

Purce accounted for 2.5 goals added in 2022. The teams’ next five best players by G+ didn’t even account for half of that combined. The addition of Williams could finally be the complimentary piece that helps Purce’s obvious brilliance translate to better on pitch results.

Player to watch: Ify Onumonu. Ever under the radar, 2022 set up to be a breakout year for Onumonu. The perpetually underrated center forward had enjoyed a career year in 2021, and it stood to reason that her form would continue into 2022. But as Gotham struggled overall, so did Onumonu. She still did all the little things that make her a quality striker right – she holds up and connects play well, and wins aerial duels at an excellent rate – but the finishing touch eluded her. She found the back of the net just three times, and her xG lagged well below her 2021 numbers as well (down to 4.70 from 7.56 per ASA’s database). Gotham adding another quick forward who can run the channels could amplify the best aspects of Onumonu’s hold up game, and the new-look midfield should give her plenty of chances to find the back of the net herself.

Ultimately, Gotham is a team that needs to nail their acquisitions at every level of the field if they want to flip their fortunes from last place to playoff contention. Their success this season will come down to how well Juan Carlos Amorós can implement a new style, and how much of an impact the likes of Edmonds, O’Hara, Ryan, and Williams can make from game one onwards. 

The summer months will likely be the most vital for Gotham, as they’re slated to lose their entire front three to the Women’s World Cup. Gotham isn’t without attacking depth – Delanie Sheehan showed promise in her rookie campaign, Taylor Smith looked the part of a shrewd waiver addition last summer, and Nahomi Kawasumi has been a useful squad member for years. Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir was acquired from the Norwegian top flight as well to bring another fresh face to the existing attacking options. But no matter who it is, someone will need to step up and carry the load of losing three international caliber players over the summer months. 

By Arianna Cascone

The North Carolina Courage have never existed without Debinha. Or Abby Erceg, for that matter. Now, they’ll have to figure out how. After a dynamic offseason that saw the Courage lose several key players and return players that accounted for only 56% of their 2022 regular-season minutes, a new-look North Carolina is set to take the field in 2023. 

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How San Diego and Portland returned to core values in a dramatic draw – Equalizer Soccer




(Photo Copyright Abe Arredondo-USA TODAY Sports)

Since the San Diego Wave entered the National Women’s Soccer League last year, every match with the Portland Thorns has been close, with only one game decided by more than one goal. Heading into Week 9 of the 2023 NWSL season, both West Coast teams sat at 15 points, one behind current table leader NJ/NY Gotham FC. Both squads were coming off slight rough patches, so their matchup on Friday was going to test their resilience.

Earlier in the week, San Diego and Canadian national team goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan told The Equalizer, “I think there’s always [an] edge when you play Portland. They’re consistently a top-level team, and you always want to beat the top. They’re coming for us just as hard as we’re coming for them. But yeah, definitely a little edge there. And I’ve got a bunch of my Canadian crew over there, so it always feels good to hand them the loss.”

Portland came out aggressive early, maintaining possession and using its press to keep San Diego away from the ball and out of the Thorns’ defensive third. In response, San Diego did what it’s been known to do well: It absorbed the attack, defended well, and tried to use its speed and counterattack to create chances.

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How the USWNT depth chart is adjusting to injuries ahead of the World Cup – Equalizer Soccer




Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Only eight weeks remain until the first match of the 2023 World Cup kicks off, but U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski is still facing some uncertainty regarding his World Cup roster.

On Tuesday, forward Catarina Macario announced that she has removed herself from World Cup selection due to the setbacks she’s faced recovering from the ACL tear she suffered last June. Despite hopes that she would rehab in time for the tournament, she has yet to take the field competitively in almost a year. Tuesday also brought the news that midfielder Rose Lavelle might not get any club minutes ahead of the World Cup, thanks to a setback in her recovery from an unspecified knee injury.

These two injuries are worrying enough, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg in terms of injuries the team has faced over the past couple of years. Players are out or of a questionable fitness level across all lines, but with the United States talent pool as deep as it is, there are plenty of choices Andonovski can make to round out the squad.

It’ll be another month or so before the roster is revealed, but here’s a rundown of the biggest challenges the team is facing and what solutions they may find.

Worrying trends

Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life for most professional athletes. What’s been so concerning these past couple of years is the sheer number and severity of the injuries.

In addition to Macario, Mallory Swanson is also out after tearing her patellar tendon this past April. She had been in phenomenal form up until her injury and many people expected her to lead the attack in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, midfielder Sam Mewis, forward Christen Press and defender Abby Dahlkemper were all key parts of the 2019 World Cup team and all haven’t seen competitive minutes since last year after all facing serious injuries.

Even among players that are shoo-ins, there are questions about fitness. In addition to Lavelle, captain Becky Sauerbrunn has been out with a foot injury for the past few weeks. And although Julie Ertz is back and looking good after more than a year away from the field, we’ve hardly been given a big enough sample size to really gauge her form. And, like Lavelle and Sauerbrunn, she’s also been marked as questionable thanks to what was reported as a thigh injury.

Of course, it’s very possible Lavelle, Sauerbrunn and Ertz are on minutes management specifically to keep them fresh for the World Cup. But the fact three key players need such careful management isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring amidst all the other injuries – especially with so many bubble players also in questionable form. For example, defenders Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger have had a rough time finding their form after returning from injury. Lindsey Horan hasn’t quite been herself either after rehabbing from a lingering knee issue. Taylor Kornieck has just returned from an extended abdominal injury and Midge Purce has missed games with a hip injury. Although not currently injured, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe have been increasingly injury-prone in recent years.

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The last time the United States previously faced even close to this many injuries was when Abby Wambach, Leslie Osborne and Cat Whitehill all missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wambach broke her leg in a friendly against Brazil while Osborne and Whitehill both suffered ACL tears. Despite a less-than-perfect performance in the final against Brazil, the U.S. did in fact go home with Olympic gold that year off a game-winning goal from budding star Amy Rodriguez in her first major tournament.

Likewise, Andonovski is going to have to look for up-and-coming young talents to be the difference-makers during the World Cup as the U.S. looks to defend its title and compete for a third consecutive championship. Luckily for him, there are quite a few to choose from.

Exploring the depth

Although it seemed unlikely at the beginning of this year, it is increasingly likely that Angel City forward and teenage phenom Alyssa Thompson has worked her way onto the World Cup roster. She’s the closest the United States has to a replacement for Swanson which is evidenced by her being immediately called up to finish the second of the pair of friendlies against Ireland after Swanson was injured during the first leg. Whether Thompson gets significant minutes with players like Alex Morgan, Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith ahead of her is yet to be seen, but there’s no question she’s a player the team will want to build around in the future.

Although not a young up-and-comer, it is as good as certain that Lynn Williams will be on her way to her first World Cup this July. After returning from her own major injury in 2022, she’s come back in excellent form and has five goals in eight games with Gotham. Although the loss of Swanson and Macario will be felt acutely, an attack featuring Smith, Morgan, Thompson, Rodman and Williams is hardly something to sneeze at. Ashley Hatch and Megan Rapinoe are also good bets to step in and round out the group. Although Hatch has been getting called up to the senior team since 2016, this will be her first major tournament, should she get the call from Andonovski.

In terms of midfield depth, both Sam Coffey and Taylor Kornieck have received senior call-ups, although they’ve missed the most recent camps. Coffey has been on a hot streak with the Portland Thorns and notched two assists last week against the Chicago Red Stars. Kornieck is just coming back from injury, but offers versatility across the line, and at 6’1″ she’s the tallest field player in program history which gives her a unique angle no other player can match.

There’s also been increasing noise around whether versatile midfielder Savannah DeMelo is deserving of a call-up to the national team. The Racing Louisville player has been on fire lately and has scored four goals and notched an assist in her last five appearances. With all the questions surrounding the midfield, could DeMelo have a shot at making the roster? Possibly, but Andonovski has said in the past he wants to bring players with senior team experience, and DeMelo, unfortunately, remains uncapped. Only once in United States history has a player with no caps made a World Cup roster – Shannon Boxx in 2003 – so it seems unlikely, but if Lavelle faces an even more severe setback or another player drops in form significantly, DeMelo may find herself on the plane to Australia and New Zealand.

Injuries everywhere

While it’s certainly far from a positive development, the one thing the United States has going for it in terms of injuries is that they’re far from alone in losing key players. Almost every single top team has lost at least one important player, most often to ACL tears. To name just a few, Canada’s Janine Beckie tore hers in the NWSL preseason, England’s Leah Williamson ruptured hers in April, and Dutch star Vivienne Miedema tore hers in November. And just yesterday, it was announced that France’s Delphine Cascarino ruptured her ACL as well. Of these players, only Miedema has a shot at making the World Cup roster, but even if she does, there’s no guarantee she’ll be in top form.

ACL tears are nothing new in women’s sports but as schedules get denser and play becomes more physical and demanding, they seem to be happening more often. While more needs to be done to prevent these injuries in the future, in the meantime, they’ll almost certainly impact how this World Cup ultimately plays out as coaches rework their rosters to accommodate missing players. That’s the task ahead of Andonovski as he’s tasked with finalizing the 23-player roster for the United States and seeing if he can put together another championship squad despite some key pieces missing.

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Macario, Lavelle news; USWNT roster questions – Equalizer Soccer




OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle

Photo credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bekki Morgan and Jeff Kassouf react to the news that Catarina Macario will not be on the roster for the Women’s World Cup, and that Rose Lavelle may not play in the NWSL before the tournament. What can we expect from the U.S. women’s national team midfield this summer? How will Mallory Swanson’s injury impact the forward line?

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