McCall Zerboni wins the ball off a Chicago Red Starts player
McCall Zerboni wins the ball off a Chicago Red Starts player 7-2-22 Gotham FC vs Chicago Red Stars

Gotham FC’s Playoff Hopes Dwindle With Loss to Chicago

A timid Gotham FC was bested yet again Sunday night in a 2-0 defeat away to the Chicago Red Stars, making it the team’s eighth loss of the season. 

Coach Scott Parkinson did not have some of his first-choice players available Sunday, with four players (including starting fullback Imani Dorsey) in Covid protocols. Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger were unavailable due to a personal, family matter. Ifeoma Onumonu was also listed as out with illness after being in Covid protocol last week. 

Despite these absences, Gotham were able to field a respectable XI, with veteran Michelle Betos slotting into goal. And yet, from kickoff to full-time, Gotham were out-possessed, outworked, and outplayed by Chicago. According to the match statistics from FotMob, Gotham managed to make just 53 passes in their opponent’s half, which in turn resulted in just four shots — none of which were on target. 

Partly, Gotham’s passive approach to the match was by design. Parkinson did not set up his side to be on the front foot. Rather, after a string of lopsided losses, Gotham sat back, tried to maintain a compact defensive block, and planned to take their opportunities on the counter. However, the game plan, Parkinson said, was not properly executed.

“We knew we were going to have to come in and defend, we knew we were going to have to come in and stick to a really solid game plan in order to win the ball back and then create some transition moments for ourselves. [But] in the moments where we have it, we’ve rushed it — and the plan was not to rush it,” said Parkinson. 

In his team’s preparations, Parkinson said they identified spaces they could play to possibly hurt Chicago  — but Gotham did not exploit them.  “[Those spaces] were there, they were available, and they weren’t taken. So I think for us, it’s understanding the game plan, committing to the game plan, and doing the game plan. And I think if we can get 11 players doing that, we give ourselves a hell of a chance,” he said.

But with this approach, Gotham could not muster a meaningful attack. Paige Monaghan hit a shot over the crossbar in the 7th minute, but that was just about the only true sight of goal Gotham had all match. Though the defensive block initially proved effective, the New Jersey/New York side eventually conceded off two set pieces, which have been a weak point for Gotham all season. 

Chicago opened the scoring right before the half-time whistle. From a recycled ball off a corner kick, Danielle Colaprico served a ball into the back post where Tatumn Milazzo beat Caprice Dydasco for the header. The ball floated over the head of Betos and into the back of the net in the 5th minute of first-half extra-time. 

In the second half, the Red Stars picked right back up where they left off, putting pressure on the Gotham backline. They doubled their lead in the 66th minute off of a free kick from Mallory Pugh. She found Ava Cook, who had a free header and rifled it into the back of the net. 

Their performance Sunday was not good enough, a visibly disappointed Estelle Johnson said following the match. 

“I just think that we’re not playing well enough individually. We have a game plan, and we know what it is, but we just aren’t playing well enough individually to execute it. I’m not quite sure why… obviously, that’s something that we’re trying to figure out ourselves,” said Johnson. 

Last year, Gotham were Challenge Cup finalists and a playoff team. But now, midway through the season, they sit just two points above last place and nine points from the playoff line. 

With this downturn in form, Johnson sees a connection to their loss of identity on the pitch. 

“I think [that lack of identity is] a bit of our problem right now. Last year, we very much prided ourselves on playing just great football, getting numbers around the ball, being really gritty, and just having a little bit of resilience in the times that we’re struggling,” said Johnson. “And I think that’s what we’re lacking this year. So we’re definitely looking at ourselves, looking at the coaching staff, and trying to work together to figure that out.”

A playoff berth is not out of the question for Gotham, as they have a few games in hand on their immediate rivals for sixth place in the table, but it would require a complete turnaround in a very short period of time.

Gotham will head back on the road next week to play OL Reign at Lumen Field. You can catch the broadcast Sunday, Aug. 14 at 3 p.m. ET on Paramount+.