Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Gotham FC
Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris face off against Ifeoma Onumonu and Gotham FC on August 29, 2021 at Red Bull Arena.

Gotham FC Gets First Win of 2022 With Victory Over Orlando

Just minutes after the Orlando Pride rattled Gotham FC’s goal post for the second time Wednesday night, the traveling New Jersey/New York side found a late winner to break a scoreless deadlock and secure the club’s first victory of the 2022 Challenge Cup. 

Shop for NBA gear at Fanatics

The goal came in the 86th minute through Gotham’s leading scorer last season, Margaret Purce. Following a throw-in, substitute Ellie Jean played a ball into space for a charging Purce, who beat both a trailing defender and the Pride goalkeeper to the top of the 18, where she then hit the ball one-time into the back of the net. It was the striker’s first goal of the season and the team’s first goal to come in open play.

As was a common theme last season, Gotham was perhaps fortunate to be the team coming out on top of the 0-1 scoreline. Orlando had 23 shots (two on target) compared to Gotham’s 14 shots (three on target) Wednesday — and perhaps more telling, Orlando’s xG, or expected goals, totaled 1.66 whereas Gotham’s came to 0.79 xG after 90 minutes. It’s fair to say Gotham was more clinical with their chances, but Orlando may have also been unlucky after hitting the woodwork twice. 

Despite what the stats might say, Coach Scott Parkinson will happily take the 3 points back to New Jersey. 

“A win is a win in the NWSL,” Parkinson said following the match. “The players looked tired, but a win is a win.” 

The performance was still not up to Gotham’s standards, but Purce said in her post-game remarks that the players are using the Challenge Cup group stage to work on themselves and make progress. 

“I think we’re all locked in, and we have a lot of faith in the growth we’re going to have over the Challenge Cup,” said Purce. “We still are aiming to win everything, but we do know [that] we’re trying to find ourselves in this game and build relationships.” 

And it’s the relationship between Purce and Gotham’s off-season acquisition, Kristie Mewis, that started to click more Wednesday. The pair had some nice interplay on the right flank, finding each other in dangerous areas around the box. And while Purce and Mewis have experience playing on the U.S. women’s national team together, Purce said trying to find the same kind of connection in the NWSL doesn’t come as easy. 

“In the NWSL I get a little bit more man-marked than I ever do on the national team — I’m usually wide open,” said Purce. “So it’s definitely been an evolving relationship. But I have a lot of fun with Kristie on and off the field, so I’m excited for the year and I think it’s going to be fun to play with her.” 

After their opening three games of the group stage, Gotham sits in second place in the Eastern division — trailing three points behind North Carolina. Wednesday’s victory — and a draw between the Spirit and Courage — was crucial to keeping their cup campaign alive as they seek to make the final for the second consecutive year. 

After a leggy performance Wednesday, the team will have to dig deep for their rematch Sunday against the Courage, who have yet to lose in 2022.

“Four games in 13 days — or whatever it is — is really challenging,” said Parkinson of the quick spate of games in a short period of time (which will actually be four games in 15 days). “I said to the players that I never understood why this was called a challenge cup. I know it now. It’s the most challenging period of professional football I’ve ever been involved in. 

“So is this going to prepare us for the future? The nastiness, the ugliness, the hard work? We hope so.”

Tune in to watch Gotham play the Courage Sunday at 3 PM ET on Paramount+.