Gotham Lose Mid-Season Matchup versus Houston, 2-4
Gotham FC fell once more 2-4 Saturday afternoon versus the Houston Dash, accruing their seventh loss of the season. Playing at home for the first time since July 2nd and returning from a two-week league break, the team seemed poised for a stronger fight. Several players were back from international duty, with Kristie Mewis and Margaret Purce re-entering the starting lineup. Yet, despite the odds being in their favor, the connections and build-up in play continued to be few and sparse.
Strong Opening Minutes
Gotham started the game exceptionally well. The defensive line worked together as a unit to hold off early long balls, and pressure throughout the field was well coordinated. This pressure proved to be effective, as an attempted pass from Houston’s center back, Ally Prisock, was cleverly read by Taylor Smith. With a good acceleration past Houston’s defenders, Smith drove down the right side before serving a perfect low cross to Paige Monaghan to tap in for the first goal of the match in just the 4th minute of play.
The home team would continue to thrive off of this energy. Recovering balls quickly in the defense and midfield lines, Gotham dominated opening play, earning one set piece and two corners in the first 15 minutes. Their best attempt in this time would come at the 15-minute mark, where a bad pass from Houston landed at the feet of Monaghan. Attacking Houston’s defense, Monaghan slipped the ball in behind to Purce, who cut back into the box with her right foot before shooting and hitting the post.
Gotham Miss Chances, Dash Take Advantage
Houston would soon dig itself out of its early hole. Earning a corner in the 18th minute, Houston moved around the box effectively, with Katie Naughton winning the first ball and heading it towards a dangerous spot in the 6-yard box. Caught off guard, Gotham were unable to clear the second ball successfully which instead took an unfortunate deflection off of Mandy Freeman, handing the Dash their 1-1 equalizer.
Gotham would go on to miss a golden opportunity to regain the lead. Winning the ball at midfield, Gotham went on the counter-attack in the 22nd minute. Purce, driving down the middle, found Smith on the right wing. As in the first goal, Smith crossed the ball across the box, and after taking a few deflections, landed at the feet of Monaghan. Unmarked, the New Jersey native looked to score her second goal of the night, but hit the ball all wrong, going over the net.
Towards the end of the half, Houston would take advantage of Monaghan’s missed chance. After Gotham turned the ball over in midfield, the Dash moved the ball quickly to María Sánchez on the left side. With numbers in the box, Sánchez curled the ball to Shea Groom, who headed the ball into the goal, propelling the Dash to a 2-1 lead.
Second Half Struggles
Despite coming out strong to start the second half, Gotham was unable to create goal-scoring moments. Though pressing high and defending compactly, Gotham still struggled to build possession through the midfield, seeming reluctant to do so at times. Often, the defensive line looked to play Smith over the top, with one chance placing her in a 1v1 situation with Houston’s Jane Campbell, before being called for an offside.
Meanwhile, Houston remained composed under pressure. Earning a few corners and set pieces, the Dash progressively increased their presence in the game. Noting Gotham’s increased desperation for an equalizer, Houston began to move the ball quicker whenever they recovered it and looked to exploit open spaces on opposite ends of the field.
In the 69th minute they did just this: moving the ball from right to left, the Dash quickly pushed numbers up the field with left fullback Allysha Chapman moving forward to create an outlet before drifting the ball back to Marissa Viggiano and finally, Sophie Schmidt, who had a wonder of a one-timer strike to give Houston a 3-1 lead. They would follow with their 4th goal of the night quickly after with a penalty in the 73rd minute putting an end to most of Gotham’s hopes and fight.
Despite losing steam, Gotham did manage to score a second goal. After receiving the clearance from Ellie Jean, Purce stunned everyone in the 82nd minute with a phenomenal dummy, letting the ball pass through her legs, and turning to attack the defense all on her own from midfield. Pretending to move inward before quickly cutting back out, Purce placed a perfectly timed, left-footed chip over Campbell’s head.
“I had been working on [this shot] with Hensley [Hancuff] … all week actually from that exact angle,” Purce said after the game. “I definitely went up to her and gave her a great thank you hug because she had helped me with it after practice.”
Purce’s goal reanimated the team in the final 10 minutes, but with continued struggles to connect, Gotham could do little to change the 2-4 scoreline.
Zerboni Reaches 175 Caps, Receives Ally Award Nomination
Despite the lackluster result, fans at Red Bull Arena were proud to cheer on captain McCall Zerboni for achieving her 175th Regular Season Cap in the NWSL. In addition, the California native was also just nominated for the inaugural NWSL Ally Award, which is presented to the athlete that embodies the idea of what a “teammate” should be, supporting and motivating everyone around them.
“It’s an honor,” Zerboni stated after the game on receiving the nod, “I want to leave this game knowing that every player that I touched and played around, that I made them better, not only on the field but that I made them a better person. They know that I’m there for them, they know they can call me at 2 o’clock in the morning or whatever they need…I’m just grateful they see how much I love them.”
Looking Forward and Moving On
Head coach Scott Parkinson lamented the outcome post-game but looked to move forward. “[We’re] extremely disappointed, frustrated, but we’re professionals. We go back to work and analyze it, and we go back to work Monday.”
At the official midway point of the season, Gotham will need to shift gears quickly if they look to make a run for the playoffs. Their next match-up comes Sunday, August 7th away versus the Chicago Red Stars.