Carli Lloyd and her teammates could not solve the Spirit defense.  (Photo courtesy of Gotham FC)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NJ/NY Gotham FC played the Washington Spirit to a scoreless draw in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup at Audi Field Tuesday night.

With a spot in the NWSL Challenge Cup final on the line, Gotham FC (2-0-1, 7 points), which is in first place in the East, controls its own destiny as the team return home on Sunday, May 2 to take on expansion club Racing Louisville FC at MSU Soccer Park.

The sold-out match is set to kickoff at 12:30 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Paramount+. A win and 3 points would put Gotham into the final. Depending on the outcome of the North Carolina Courage-Orlando Pride match Saturday night, a tie could also see Gotham into the championship game.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy coming here,” Gotham FC head coach Freya Coombe said. “We didn’t have as much possession or quality of possession as we would’ve hoped, but to walk away with a clean sheet, a point and our position in the table, we’re still in a good place going into our final game. We’ve shown that we’ve got some really good moments when we’re firing and I think it’s just having that demand of greater consistency amongst the cohesion of the players.”

In Tuesday’s encounter, Gotham FC earned an early corner after Carli Lloyd saw her attempt inside the box deflected by Tori Huster. On the counter, Tegan McGrady got the crowd off its feet with a left-wing cross into the box from the left flank. The visitors marched down the field. Midge Purce fired a shot from the top of the 18, which struck the outside of the bottom-right post.

The visitors began to take control in the 20th minute.

Paige Monaghan broke free and sent a low shot at goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who came off her line quickly to steady the ship. Led by the dynamic duo of Trinity Rodman and Ashley Sanchez up top, the Spirit began putting pressure on keeper Didi Haracic. Gotham FC’s Saori Takarada foiled a 2 v 1 break in the 28th minute. Minutes later, Bledsoe parried a Monaghan shot away for a corner.

In the 32nd minute, Sanchez drove at Gotham FC’s defense and nearly wrapped her foot around what would have been an 18-yard dream-shot, but the attempt was a bit too high.

Things started to heat up five minutes into the second half. Andi Sullivan ran past three defenders to break into open space. Moments later, the captain found Ashley Hatch in front of net. Her header, which had Haracic beat, struck the crossbar.

In the 55th minute, Sullivan picked up the ball at the top of the penalty area, took a touch and unleashed a low shot that forced a diving save from Haracic. Under a minute later, Sullivan was left wide open inside the six on a corner kick as her shot fell just wide.

With 15 minutes remaining, Lloyd picked off an errant back pass and found Ifeoma Onumonu in the box, but stellar defending from Emily Sonnett kept Gotham off the scoresheet.