Evelyne Viens saved her heroics until the 11th hour. (Photo courtesy of Gotham FC)
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Evelyne Viens scored two minutes into stoppage time to boost NJ/NY Gotham FC to a 4-3 victor over the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL Challenge Cup at MSU Soccer Park Tuesday night.
Viens converted a close-range attempt to snap a 3-3 deadlock as undefeated Gotham FC (2-0) took the East group lead.
“I think it was a very exciting one for fans, for neutrals,” Gotham FC head coach Freya Coombe said. “We knew it was going to be a moment where we could look to counter-attack and we could look to build up our possession. With the return some players from international duty, we knew we could put out a more attacking front line and then also have really good depth for the game changers to come in and they did make a big difference.”
The hosts drew first blood on a breakaway via the first of two goals buy forward Midge Purce. The attack began with a pass from the Gotham defensive third. Purce received the ball in stride and dribbled upfield for a goal in the 18th minute.
The Courage answered with a goal as Debinha slipped a pass out wide to Jessica McDonald. Beating a defender and cutting the ball to her left foot, McDonald played in a cross that deflected off of Gotham’s Jennifer Cudjoe and to the feet of fellow defender Mandy Freeman. A poor clearance attempt from Freeman landed in the path of Debinha, who buried her first goal of the Challenge Cup to equalize in the 21st minute.
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) April 21, 2021
Two minutes later, McDonald was on the ball again, this time running onto a pass from Lynn Williams. Taking a single touch, McDonald placed a ball across the box and hitting Debinha on the far post. Debinha added second goal to give the Courage a 2-1 lead with 23 minutes gone.
The Courage’s lead turned out to be temporary, as a streaking run down the right sideline from Paige Monaghan was just enough to slot a cross to Purce. On her first touch, Purce tapped in another to tie the game at 2-2 in the 26th minute, but not without some deliberation as to whether the goal was onside.
In the 31st minute, Gotham captain Carli Lloyd tallied a goal to render the score 3-2 in favor of the hosts to end the first half. Lloyd, who has not appeared in a match for Gotham FC since 2019, recently celebrated breaking 300 caps with the U.S. women’s national team.
Five minutes into the second half McDonald flicked a header over the fingertips of Gotham goalkeeper Didi Haracic to tie the game at 3-3 early into the second half. Adding her name to the scoresheet for a second consecutive match, McDonald has had a hand in five of the six goals scored by the Courage during the competition.