Clash of the Titans: Gotham FC faces OL Reign

by Denise Duffy and Jonathon Hagger (18/5/23)

Above: Gotham FC’s Ali Krieger in the huddle. Photo: Devon Cafaro / Gotham FC.

Third-ranked Gotham FC faces a significant challenge as they take on OL Reign, the second-ranked team in the NWSL, at Lumen Field on May 21, 2023. It will be a matchup to watch as these two equally matched teams go head to head. The outcome will have implications for the league standings.

Following a 1-0 loss against the Washington Spirit, The Reign will be looking to get back on track with a win against Gotham FC. The emotions will be running high as OL will be playing in front of a spirited and vocal home crowd.

Both teams have the same match results to this point with 4 wins -1 draw – 2 losses. The only difference is a significant goal difference advantage to the Reign who had a resounding win against Chicago Red Stars, 5-2 in a previous match.

Gotham FC Head Coach Juan Carlos Amorós is instilling in the team a drive for continuous improvement. “We need to compete against ourselves and our performance the game before, get better to impose our style”. Playing at their best is an absolute must if Gotham hopes to bring down the might of the Reign. 


Lynn Williams is having a blinder of a season leading many team statistics for both offence and defense. Williams is pressing hard to be included in the US Women’s team for the World Cup in July 2023. With Mewis, Taylor, and Farrelly feeding her quality passes, combined with her poise when opportunities arise, goals are on the menu almost every week.

Williams has overtaken Sam Kerr for the total number of goal-scoring creations, meaning goals and assists. And beware any team that thinks Williams is going to tire out – she is not. Watching Williams play for ninety-plus minutes is a captivating experience as goals in this hectic league can and do happen right up to the last whistle.

Above: Bruninha in action for Gotham FC. Photo: Devon Cafaro / Gotham FC.

Allie Long is the central pivot for many of Gotham’s plays. Long emerges as a visionary force in the midfield, asserting her dominance and exerting significant influence on the team’s direction of play. The Orlando Pride worked out how to keep Long off the ball in the last match and OL Reign will do well to take lessons from that performance.

It’s also important to look across the rest of the Gotham squad to understand what’s working well. This match will be won or lost depending on how well each team’s midfield controls the flow and pace of the match. Gotham is blessed to have a midfield that consists of strong leaders and they are going to need to be at their very best. Its essential players these players bring their A-game.

  • Kristie Mewis – Midfield. Mewis is one of the team’s leaders in shot creating actions. Mewis is left footed and a very physical player. She is not afraid to put her body on the line when needed.
  • McCall Zerboni – Midfield. With 14 years experience playing in the NWSL, Zerboni is ready to engage in any and every situation. Zerboni has been used as a super sub regularly by the Bats. She anchors the midfield when the pressure is on.
  • Sinead Farrelly – Mid/Forward. Coach Amorós describes Farrelly as being “a fantastic play marker, she gives us clarity going forward, and is comfortable on the ball. We’ve seen her fitness grow over the season after the long break from the game. She’s been good for the team overall”.

The OL Reign are a very strong goal scoring team. They can create opportunities when there appears to be no way through. Coach Laura Harvey emphasised her team does well when they can move the ball around, as said after last week’s loss “because when we can switch the point of attack, when we can keep possession and switch it around the back or move the ball. We become a better team because of it.”

Above: OL Reign’s Alana Cook. Photo: Rob Kinnan / Imagn.
  • OL Reign Forwards. The Reign have perhaps the most dominant assembly of forwards across all of the NWSL teams. Boasting names like Rapinoe, Latsko, and Balcer the Reign are an attacking menace.
  • Jess Fishlock – Midfield. Fishlock has scored 3 goals in 7 matches and is the top-rated player according to Fotmob.
  • Phallon Tullis-Joyce. The Reign are sticking with a good thing and have made Tullis-Joyce their number-one starting goalkeeper. She has started every match and has an enviable goals saved rate of just under 80%. If finding a way through the Reign defence wasn’t a big enough challenge getting the ball past Tullis-Joyce will be just as difficult.  

What to expect in this match –

  • OL Reign were beaten 1-0 by the NC Courage. The Courage lacked the high-quality accuracy of passing we have become accustomed to and were on the back foot with only 39.3% of possession. The Reign will be looking to continue to dominate in this possession statistics.
  • Gotham has a dynamic attack option when playing down the right wing with Taylor

Smith and Yazmeen Ryan, both providing a constant threat when they combine. Sinead Farrelly is writing a thriller of a comeback story and is stamping her authority on the game. When opportunities arise to score, Farrelly can finish them.

  • The OL Reign vs Gotham FC will be the must-see match in the next round of the NWSL. These two powerhouse teams will both be looking to gain an early advantage so the first 20 minutes could well be complete mayhem! 

Keeper – Abby Smith (probable) or Mandy Haught (possible) vs Phallon Tullis-Joyce. Statistically, there is little difference between the performances of Smith and Tullis-Joyce this season. The key difference between the two is Gotham FC’s super high press tactic that requires their goalkeepers to complete a high number of actions outside the box, in a sweeper-type role. Gotham were only able to keep a strong Orlando Pride goalless through the sheer brilliance of Abby Smith. Both Jonathon and I are giving the checkmark to Abby Smith. Forget any history, her current form is absolutely switched on.

Backline – Krieger, Edmonds and Bruninha vs Hiatt, Cook and Huerta. OL Reign has a slight edge because several have national team aspirations. These games are pure proving ground for that.

Midfield – The OL Reign often play in a 4-2-3-1 formation meaning they have very good coverage offensively and defensively. Fishlock and Sonnett provide cover in front of the back four while Rapinoe, Balcer and Latsko float in offensive roles. Gotham have shown a liking for using the full width of the field and will be looking to unleash Farrelly and Mewis on the sidelines. Precision passing will be essential.

Front Line – Reign’s Bethany Balcer and Gotham’s Lynn Williams. The form that Williams has been playing with so far this season gives her an edge in this matchup. Balcer has scored three goals and given 1 assist through 7 games with two of those goals in the walkover against Chicago. The Gotham defenders will have their hands full with Balcer being able to shoot with both feet as well as being a big threat in the air. We again are giving the edge to Gotham.

Coaching – Laura Harvey v Juan Carlos Amorós. Like all the elements of this match the two coaches are difficult to separate in terms of an advantage. Harvey has a team of hardworking stars and Amorós has a team full of experience and class. Edge goes to Harvey. I think she will have no problem motivating her team in front of their hometown fans at Lumen Field as she directs them from her water cooler.

Back Office – Allie Long recently described the feeling and vibe among the team as “there’s something special we are building on the pitch”, and off the pitch, “our entire staff, from top to bottom, having them here feels like a fresh new start and they’re creating a winning culture. This team is on a mission together and we need each and every player”. OL Reign has a winning culture, however Gothams stock is experiencing a bull market.

Fans, Stadium and Social Media – Playing at home in front of a very energetic and engaged fanbase will give the Reign an edge over the travelling Gotham FC.

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