McCall Zerboni will begin her second season with Gotham FC. (USA TODAY Photo)
HARRISON, N.J. – NJ/NY Gotham FC opens the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup with a visit to Exploria Stadium as the newly rebranded club takes on Orlando Pride Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
The match will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network with international viewers able to follow the action on Twitch. This match will mark the first time the club takes the pitch as Gotham FC, competing previously as Sky Blue FC.
While the club name and logo may be new, the heart of the team remains the same. The 2021 roster is bolstered by the return of several key veteran players including captain and midfielder McCall Zerboni, defender Gina Lewandowski and midfielder Naho Kawasumi.
Two-time Women’s World Cup champion Carli Lloyd and U.S. women’s national team player Midge Purce, along with forward Evelyne Viens (Canada) and defender Estelle Johnson (Cameroon) will be unavailable for the start of the Challenge Cup due to international duty. The noted absence on the front line provides an opportunity for forwards Paige Monaghan and Ifeoma Onumonu to play.
The offseason saw the signing of South Korean international Sodam Lee, who will look to make her National Women’s Soccer League debut after winning consecutive WK titles with Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels.
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, the Golden Glove winner of the 2020 Challenge Cup, remains sidelined due to a right quad injury sustained during an appearance for Canada at the SheBelieves Cup in February.
“Overall it feels a little different going into the Challenge Cup with a much longer preseason this year,” Lewandowski said. “We’ve had a lot more time together on and off the field as a team, as a unit, and analyzing our vision for the future. The rebrand has brought a different perspective to the club as a whole. We want to get onto the field and show who we are and compete at the highest level.”
The last meeting the two clubs took place way back Sept. 30, 2019 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. in front of one of the club’s largest attended games (8,314 fans). The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Lloyd and Shelina Zadorsky getting on the score line.
The former Sky Blue FC and Pride did not meet during 2020, due to Orlando’s absence from the Challenge Cup and having not been drawn to match-up during the NWSL Fall Series.
Gotham FC will have two Challenge Cup home games – Tuesday, April 20 against North Carolina Courage and Sunday, May 2 against Racing Louisville FC. Both games will be played MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.
Due to social distancing requirements, tickets will be extremely limited and are expected to sell out. Public on-sale begins Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.