Gotham FC head coach Freya Coombe coaching during last year’s Challenge Cup. (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. – NJ/NY Gotham FC will face the Portland Thorns in the championship game of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup at Providence Park, this Saturday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS).
Gotham FC guaranteed its place in the final Sunday after playing expansion side Racing Louisville FC to a scoreless craw in a game that matched their previous result against the Washington Spirit.
Unlike its first two Challenge Cup wins over Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage (five goals scored), Gotham’s attack has struggled to find the back of the net.
Gotham’s attack has included two goals from Midge Purce, two assists from Ifeoma Onumonu and a goal and an assist from Paige Monaghan.
U.S. women’s national team forward Carli Lloyd and Canada WNT forward Evelyne Viens also tallied.
The defense has remained vital with three shutouts. Goalkeeper Didi Haracic and defender Gina Lewandowski are the only two Gotham players that have played every minute in the Cup and have been an integral part of the team’s defensive success.
“This is the first final for the club in NWSL history and there is definitely a buzz around the players, staff, and fans to be going into our first final as NJ/NY Gotham FC,” head coach Freya Coombe said. “My NWSL career is still in its infancy so to have made the semi-final last year and final this year is really special. I am pleased that some fans have been allowed into the stadium because I think the players and fans deserve that.”
The Thorns, also unbeaten (3-0-1), is likely to test the resolve of Gotham’s backline. Portland has scored in every match. The strength of Portland’s roster and the ability to be clinical in the final third has been key to reaching he final. Six players have scored, including Canadian standout Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring leader, Lindsey Horan and former Sky Blue FC midfielder Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez.
In its last three meetings with Portland, Gotham FC has a 0-2-1 record. It’s last win came June 17, 2017.
“I am really looking forward to playing the Thorns as the last time we faced them was in 2019 and I have fond memories as it was my first game with the club,” Coombe said. “Portland is a talented and experienced team that is hungry for silverware. They have a very talented midfield and are tight defensively so it will be tricky to break down.”