Gotham FC, Red Bull Arena
Gotham FC celebrates after scoring a goal against Kansas City on July 2, 2021.

10 Meaningful Gotham FC Moments of 2021, and What They Mean for 2022

In just four weeks, Gotham FC will be ramping up for the 2022 NWSL pre-season, which starts on February 1st. Building upon the strong foundation built in 2021 will be a critical component of success for the upcoming campaign.

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Nets Republic was there to capture some meaningful moments of the 2021 season. Let’s look back on some of those moments of the last year (in no particular order), and what they could mean for Gotham FC in 2022.

Gotham FC – The Rebrand

The Moment

Even before the team took the field, the organization was already looking to make a bold statement. In April, the club announced that they were ditching their former moniker Sky Blue FC in favor of a new identity: NJ/NY Gotham FC.

In what was considered to be a very successful launch, the rebrand made it clear that the New Jersey-based club was embracing their neighbors across the Hudson River and clamoring to become an international destination.

Gotham FC, Imani Dorsey, Nahomi Kawasumi
Imani Dorsey and Nahomi Kawasumi sport the newly rebranded Gotham FC home jersey on September 4, 2021 verus the Chicago Red Stars at Red Bull Arena.

What it Means for 2022

We already saw a taste of the kinds of international talent the club can attract. In 2021, the club signed French National Team star Gaëtane Thiney and South Korean national Sodam Lee. Both midfielders completed a season with the club and returned home in December. The NWSL wants to be the best league in the world, and attracting international talent is paramount to this goal. Could Gotham FC become a leader in attracting international stars to the league?

Playing at Red Bull Arena

The Moment

Gotham FC’s move from Rutgers University to Red Bull Arena in 2021 marked a clear and decisive step forward for the growing organization.

Having the professional facilities befitting a professional club invigorated players and brought new fans to the games. The arena is easily accessible from New York City via public transportation, opening up the club to a new market of fans.

Gotham FC, Portland Thorns, Red Bull Arena
Gotham FC versus the Portland Thorns at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2021.

What it Means for 2022

The capacity of Red Bull Arena is 25,000, but average attendance in 2021 was just over 5,000. Even though low attendance could be due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear there is room for improvement on filling the stands.

Next season, as the club brings in new stars including Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, and Kristie Mewis, it feels likely that the club will achieve the higher attendance that a club of this caliber deserves.

Allie Long, and her goal against Chicago Red Stars

The Moment

Gotham FC’s move to bring in defensive midfielder Allie Long during the 2021 pre-season was lauded by fans at the time, and they were not disappointed. Calm under pressure, Allie Long’s ability to possess the ball and move it expertly around the field proved a key component of the club’s success.

In a home game against the Chicago Red Stars on July 25, Allie Long solidified her role as a Gotham FC mainstay, showcasing her skills in the attack. With an assist from Caprice Dydasco, Long was able to chip Chicago keeper and notch the first goal of the evening. The team went on to win that game 2-1, with the Red Stars scoring a consolation goal in stoppage time of the second half.

Allie Long, Gotham FC, Chicago Red Stars, Red Bull Arena
Allie Long scores for Gotham FC against the Chicago Red Stars at Red Bull Arena on July 25, 2021.

What it Means for 2022

In 2021, Long proved that she is a vital part of the team’s success on the pitch, contributing both offensively and defensively. Long’s veteran leadership, high soccer IQ, and exceptional passing rate will continue to make her the anchor Gotham FC needs moving forward into 2022.

Even with a strong defense and lethal attack, Gotham FC appeared to struggle the most in the midfield. If Long is flanked by young talent, including Jennifer Cudjoe, the team should be able to shore up a strong midfield, rounding out the formation for this upcoming season.

Saying Goodbye to Carli Lloyd

The Moment

The retirement of Carli Lloyd included a farewell game on October 6 at Subaru Park, the home of the MLS team, Philadelphia Union. It was no secret that the 39-year-old would likely be ending her soccer career in 2021, and Gotham FC helped her mark the occasion with a game close to her hometown of Delran, New Jersey. This match marked the highest attendance of the year for the club with close to 10,000 fans showing up to say farewell to the USWNT star.

Gotham FC faced off against the Washington Spirit in a game that would end in a scoreless draw. The Spirit would go on to win the NWSL Championship later that year.

Carli Lloyd of Gotham FC, cheered on by her teammates, says farewell to fans on October 6, 2021, at Subaru Park.

What it Means for 2022

Lloyd’s retirement marks a new era for Gotham FC who will have to shift their focus on building their attack around younger players in the squad in order to set themselves up for further success in the coming years.

Lloyd, who joined Sky Blue FC in 2018, was often away on international duty, making it difficult for Gotham’s attack to be consistent over the course of a season. Although she had bright moments with the squad including a game-tying goal in the 2021 Challenge Cup Final, her retirement opens up the door for other players to move into the role she is vacating. Hopefully, this will translate to more consistency in attack aided in part by the NWSL’s new commitment to limiting NWSL games during FIFA international windows.

The Rise of Caprice Dydasco

The Moment

Caprice Dydasco had a fantastic year. Between earning her 100th cap, winning Defensive Player of the Year, and scoring her first NWSL goal, it’s hard to pick just one moment to sum up the season Dydasco had.

Her presence on Gotham was critical in both the attack and defense. The outside back, who joined Sky Blue FC via trade with the Washington Spirit in 2018, quickly became a fan favorite and a key piece of the team. What makes her season even more impressive is that she returned to the game after suffering her third ACL tear the year prior.

Caprice Dydasco
Caprice Dydasco of Gotham FC on September 25, 2021, at Red Bull Arena.

What it Means for 2022

Dydasco’s excellent season doesn’t seem to be a one-off. In 2022 she’ll be looking to consolidate this past season’s success as one of the best outside backs and defenders in the league. It will be interesting to see how she is utilized in 2022, especially if the squad adopts a new formation.

Earlier in the season, Gotham FC tried their hand at a 3-5-2 formation, allowing Dydasco to demonstrate her versatility as a winger. This well-rounded player is definitely one to watch in 2022, both as an individual and as part of the team.

“Return of the Midge”

The Moment

When Gotham FC signed Margaret “Midge” Purce in 2019, fans couldn’t believe their luck. The rising USWNT star is an exciting player, skilled dribbler, and excellent attacker. This season, she faced a small setback, missing six weeks of the season due to an injury.

Her much-anticipated return to the team on September 25th ended with her scoring a goal – a strong message that Margaret Purce cannot be stopped. Gotham FC prevailed that night in a 3-1 win against the North Carolina Courage.

Margaret Purce
Margaret Purce of Gotham FC takes on the North Carolina Courage on September 25, 2021.

What it Means for 2022

Despite missing six weeks, Purce still managed to stay in the running for the Golden Boot, finishing the season with nine goals. This put her tied for second place and just two goals behind the eventual winner – Ashley Hatch of the Washington Spirit.

The hope is that Purce stays healthy and continues to provide creativity on the field and in the attack, something that Gotham FC occasionally lacked in the games they played without her. Her skill both on and off the ball is essential for the team to increase their goal scoring, which will be necessary to further their success in 2022.

Not only are Purce’s skills paramount to Gotham FC’s success on the pitch, but utilizing and amplifying her stardom is equally as important to the success of the club off the pitch. Purce is a star, and hopefully, her star power will be a key to attracting new fans to the organization and continuing to grow the game.

Ifeoma Onumonu with (and without) Margaret Purce

The Moment

No woman is an island, and that is true of the success of Margaret Purce. Her partnership with fellow attacker Ifeoma Onumonu was both exciting to watch and a massive reason that Gotham FC made it into the post-season for the first time since 2013.

Onumonu is a star in her own right. The 2021 season saw her get consistent playing time and thrive finishing the season with 8 goals and 4 assists. Onumonu also kept Gotham FC’s attack afloat during Purce’s injury period, but it was clear that when they were both out on the pitch, true soccer magic was about to occur. The two have a long history of playing together, and their palpable on-field chemistry translated to real results.

No moment exemplified this more than when Purce returned from injury and scored a goal off an assist from Onumonu on September 25th against North Carolina. In the post-match comments, Onumonu noted that she was incredibly happy that Purce was back because of how well they play together. “If I’m going to be honest, when I crossed that ball, I did not see her,” Onumonu said after that game. “I just put it in the space, and I knew she was going to be there to put the ball in the back of the net.”

Margaret Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu
Margaret Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu celebrate together after scoring a goal against the North Carolina Courage on September 25, 2021.

What it Means for 2022

Since joining the league in 2017, Onumonu has been a strong, yet underrated player. She bounced around between a few clubs before landing in New Jersey in 2020. It is evident that this prolific goal scorer has really found her footing with Gotham FC.

Onumonu and Purce scored 17 of Gotham’s 29 regular-season goals. If Purce and Onumonu maintain their strong partnership, it truly feels like the sky’s the limit for the Gotham FC attack. It will be interesting to see who joins the pair in a starting XI and what formation the club will adopt going into the new season.

Paige Monaghan’s Return from Injury

New Jersey native Paige Monaghan has faced a number of obstacles in her young career. Her second year in the league was the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season that featured the first Challenge Cup and the Fall series but no regular season. In 2021 she missed nearly 12 weeks due to injury.

Monaghan was widely considered to be the future of Gotham FC’s attack, and fans got to see glimpses of this promise when she finally returned from her injury in September.

Within minutes of subbing into the game on September 25th, Monaghan scored, solidifying a 3-1 win against the North Carolina Courage. This also happened to be the same game Margaret Purce returned from injury and scored.

Paige Monaghan
Paige Monaghan returned from injury on September 25, 2021, against the North Carolina Courage. 9-25-21.

What it Means for 2022

If Gotham FC can have a healthy Paige Monaghan, she could be the missing piece in their attacking formation. Joining the duo of Margaret Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu, the young, speedy forward could round out a Gotham FC front line and create an attack that would scare even the strongest of opponents.

Monaghan is definitely up for the challenge, whether she is starting or coming in off the bench. In an exclusive interview with the forward in November, she told Nets Republic, “I just want to be a burst of energy, that threat.” She added, “I want other teams to think ‘oh no, we’re not done yet!’ whenever I come in. Maybe I’ll score a goal or two along the way.”

Head Coach Scott Parkinson

The Moment

Gotham FC’s 3-1 win over North Carolina Courage also marked the first match coached by newly appointed head coach Scott Parkinson. The team had been struggling to score and win games, but the addition of Parkinson injected new life into the club. The team would go on a seven-game unbeaten streak that would last until the end of the season, securing their first playoff spot since 2013.

With the addition of Parkinson, Gotham FC’s true identity began to shine through. It was clear that the team did not consider themselves underdogs. Instead, they embraced their individual talents, team chemistry, and never-say-die mentality to push into the post-season.

Gotham FC
Gotham FC celebrates a goal against the North Carolina Courage on September 25, 2021.

What it Means for 2022

It is clear from both Gotham’s results on the field, and comments made off the field, that Parkinson has changed the game for Gotham FC. The players have lauded Parkinson’s approach to coaching. In a previous interview with Nets Republic, Caprice Dydasco explained that Parkinson has “been open and honest with [the team] from day one.”

In a post-game press conference on October 9th, Parkinson made it clear how important it is to treat players with the respect they deserve. “I think us as coaches, us as leaders, us as people with power, I think we need to understand that you don’t have to berate someone to make them a better footballer,” he said.

With a strong relationship between the coaching staff and the players, Gotham FC is poised to build upon that team chemistry that is so important to on-field results. If the last few games of the season were a glimpse into what 2022 has to offer, it sure seems that whatever Parkinson is doing will work for this hungry club.

No More Silence

The Moment

It is difficult to put into words the bravery exhibited by current and former NWSL players this year in speaking out about the abuse they have faced in the league. Kaiya McCullough was the first to come forward to the Washington Post, exhibiting enormous strength and courage in detailing allegations of the abuse she faced during her time playing for the Washington Spirit under coach Richie Burke. Her story was followed by the explosive report in the Athletic detailing further allegations of abuse of NWSL players by a now-former coach Paul Riley, which prompted the players in the league to come together and show the world that they will no longer be silent.

Starting on October 6th, players began stopping games in the 6th minute to come together and lock arms with their teammates and opponents at the center of the field. Their message of solidarity was received loud and clear – they would no longer be silent.

Finally, following their NWSL Championship loss, the Chicago Red Stars announced that they would be parting ways with their long-time coach Rory Dames. A report in the Washington Post the next day detailed how former Chicago Red Stars and current Angel City FC player Christen Press, among others, reported allegations of his abuse back in 2018 to the U.S. Soccer Federation. The concerns were ultimately dismissed and Dames kept his coaching position until 2021 when he was allowed to resign from the Red Stars only hours before the allegations were published.

2021 was truly a year of reckoning for the NWSL. The league also saw the departure of Racing Louisville Coach Christy Holly, OL Reign Coach Farid Benstiti, and Gotham FC General Manager Alyse LaHue for allegations of misconduct.

Gotham FC, Washington Spirit
On October 6, 2021, Gotham FC and Washington Spirit players came together in a show of solidarity.

What it Means for 2022

As the NWSL enters its 10th year, players are negotiating with the league on a collective bargaining agreement. The finalization of this CBA will be vital to ensuring all players have a safe environment, more control over their careers, and established mechanisms to report any experienced abuse.

Even with the CBA, the onus is on the league and individual club owners to make certain that players have safe working environments moving forward.

2021 was a difficult year for NWSL players and fans, but the players consistently urged the fans to not give up. The players want and deserve a league that will keep them safe and put them in a position to thrive. Last year, the NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA) took on a larger, more prolific role in demanding players be fairly compensated in addition to having a safe working environment. For Gotham FC, Imani Dorsey and McCall Zerboni provide representation to the NWSLPA, along with Nicole Baxter occupying the role of alternate.

In addition to the work of the NWSLPA, the Black Women’s Player Collective (BWPC) strengthened their position in their efforts to demand equity in soccer. Gotham FC’s own Margaret Purce, Imani Dorsey, and Ifeoma Onumonu are on the board of the BWPC, which debuted a newly rebranded web presence in late 2021.

Final Thoughts on 2021

It was difficult to only highlight 10 moments from 2021, and it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Gotham FC achieved this year. But one thing is clear: the team is poised to have an excellent 2022 by building off of their success last year.

Although there was some movement in the off-season, the bones of this squad are still intact, and with new additions joining the team this year, 2022 could mark the start of an exciting new era for New Jersey/New York Gotham FC.

To check out what Gotham FC has in store for this year, visit Gotham’s website for 2022 ticket information.