Well, this is it.
We’ve reached 2022’s lanterne rouge, the Wooden Spoon, the dead-last worst club in the league last season, the club-formerly-known-as-Sky-Blue, or…
ny/nj Gotham FC
Year formed: 2012
The club that is now “NY/NJ Gotham FC” was Sky Blue FC, another one of the Original Eight.
In fact, the Sky Blue that came into the NWSL has always claimed the palmares of the “Jersey Sky Blue” club that was formed in the WPSL semi-pro league back in the Oughts and played in the professional WPS from 2009 to 2011.
The ridiculous star that the Joisey Goils wore over their crest was for a Sky Blue WPS title in 2009, an artifact from a defunct league won by an organization that had virtually nothing in common with the outfit that started playing in 2013.
The club was semi-successful that season, sliding into the playoffs in fourth, but were knocked out by WNY in the semi.
The following seasons, though, are a dire record of lower mid-table mediocrity.
2014: 6th of 9 (but only a point below the red line, so a comparatively good year by Sky Blue standards),
2015: 8th of 9,
2016: 7th of 9,
2017: 6th of 10…
Then there was 2018, where Sky Blue finished 9th of 9, 9 points and their 1-17-6 was the single worst season in NWSL history.
Wow! Ugly! But by…
2019: 8th of 9 and we’re back to mediocrity.
2021: 5th of 10. Now as Gotham the former Sky Blue got into the playoffs for the second time in club history. Sure, they were quickly hustled back out by Chicago, but the combination of re-branding and the playoffs brought hope back to the hustings of Jersey City.
Then the curtain went up on 2022…
Owners: The Murphys
The NY/NJ Gotham brand is still owned by the people who started up “Jersey Sky Blue” back in the day, the husband-and-wife team of Phil and Tammy Murphy.
There’s a bunch of minority owners including a bunch of sports names like Eli Manning, Carli Lloyd, and Kevin Durant as well as the usual cast of other finance mavens like the Murphys (who made their bones at – where else – Goldman Sachs).
As Sky Blue the club and ownership had issues. Like ISSUES-issues.
In 2018 a bunch of reports, including this one, ripped the Murphys for running a rinky-dink cheap-ass, bush-league operation. Those stories – portable toilets and trailer showers instead of locker rooms, players without housing or living in dumpy trashed apartments, dirty kit because there were no washers or driers – all put the permanent Mark of Cain on the Sky Blue brand.
Perhaps most infamously, 2019 draftees Julia Ashley and Hailey Mace simply refused to sign, fleeing to Europe rather than play for Jersey.
Finally in 2021 the club was faced with a change-or-die problem, and changed.
First, Tammy Murphy stepped in. She oversaw investments in player housing, management and office upgrades, and training field improvements.
All this came as Tony Novo, who had been the GM, got the boot. Story was that he was terminated with extreme prejudice as being one of the problems at Sky Blue. Alyse LaHue from the Red Stars was brought in to replace him.
In April the club officially changed its name. to “Gotham FC”, tho it seems like it’s kept the “NY/NJ” to retain the connection with the Garden State since, as John Pizzarelli says:
“Our famous Parkway is the darkway
Home from Manasquan
You’d think for all those quarters
They’d turn the road lights on
And have no pity, Jersey City
Once again will shine,
With Holmdel, Cape May, Highland Park
I like our state just fine.”
(And since now you’ve heard it – you DID go listen, right? What? No, no, stop, go listen. It’s really fun! I’ll wait.)
Okay, now that you’ve heard it…why isn’t it the state song? You know that Jersey is the only state that doesn’t have a state song, like our fine “Oregon, My Oregon“. The last effort nominated was something called “I’m from New Jersey“, which is also pretty awesome (example – here’s the chorus: “I’m from New Jersey/I don’t expect too much
If the world ended today/I would adjust”).
So here they are. There’s a lot of “Sky Blue” in this outfit, but they’ve at least started trying to go in the right direction…so long as you don’t expect too much.
Head Coach: Juan Carlos Amorós
We’ve had a ton of Brits, an American and a Swede. Now, for a change, a Spaniard.
If Amoros played anywhere I can’t find the details. He seems to have broken into management in England with Tottenham, then moved to Spain with Real Betis, and from there to Houston.
His management record seems mixed.
In 2018-19 he got Tottenham promoted, but his 2019-20 season dove right into the toilet and he got canned seven games in.
Real Betis finished 9th in his season there.
He was only the interim manager in Houston but appears to have done well getting them into the playoffs, if only to get kicked right out again. He took over Gotham this winter.
Hard to say with this guy, so we may just have to wait. He can hardly do worse than his predecessors.
2022 – 4-17-1 (13 points; 12th of 12) 16GF 46GA -30GD
Season summary: Jesus wept
The sad part is that the Joisey Goils were 3-3-0 on Matchday 6 and in fifth.
Then they lost 15 of 16.
Their only non-loss other than an away win in Louisville was one we probably remember, the 3-3 draw on the final regular season match.
Meetings with Portland: 6/16/22 (5-nil road loss), 10/1/22 (3-3 home draw)
Outstanding players: Well, they have Midge Purce.
The Joisey Goils seem to have a lot of sorta-semi-stars and mostly-kinda-decent players. People like Kristie Mewis or Ali Krieger or McCall Zerboni or Nahomi Kawasumi or our former Thorns Purce and Iffy Onumonu. Good, not great (well, except for Purce, but I love her to death so I’m not objective about her).
The problem was that nobody stepped up for them last season when they needed goals in a big way. Purce was their big scorer with three goals and three assists. Paige Monaghan had three and none. Z-Bone had three and none and Kristie Mewis two and three, Iffy two and two.
In back Gotham was the worst defense in the league; 46GA, beating the other dumpster fire (Orlando) by a single concession. The Goths split the keeping between Shelly Betos and Ashlyn Harris and while neither was outstanding their backlines didn’t help, especially Harris; her xG-against is the worst of any keeper we’ve looked at:
Frankly, the xGa divergence is just weird. As we’ll see when we look at their XIs in 2022, the backline and DMs were pretty constant through the year, but whereas in front of Betos they were mid- to low-grade crappy they just took an utter steaming dump in front of Harris.
Why? I have no idea; of the two Harris was slightly (as in real slightly) the better technical keeper. But the bodies in front of Betos didn’t hang her out more than any other crummy below-the-red-line outfit, while Harris got fucking shelled. If I’d have been her I’d have slapped every one of her defenders up the back of the head like Moe does the other Stooges.
The “playing in a pinch” plot is kind of useless for Gotham. They were never ahead so they couldn’t drop points from a lead, and they obviously didn’t win shit so no coming from behind, either.
From front to back, this was just a crap team.
How did they score?
They didn’t. Worst in front of goal in the whole league.
The Goths didn’t attack hard enough to bag a penalty, and they didn’t force an own goal, either. Nicked a couple of corners and one of those oddball “other set piece” things. Because they were so heavily dependent on getting goals from the run of play – at 81% the highest percentage of all clubs in 2022 – Gotham needed a big scorer or two, and instead had a small cluster of people with two or three goals each.
There’s really nothing here to discuss; Gotham was crap in front, crap behind, crap all over the pitch. They were comprehensively crap in 2022.
How Did They Look?
This was the opening day win in over Orlando May:
Bread and butter 4-2-3-1. Imani Dorsey at LB, Johnson and Krieger the CBs with Caprice Dydasco at RB. Z-Bone and Kawasumi at DM, Monaghan at LW, Mewis ACM, and Midge at RW with Iffy leading as the #9.
From the heights of glory to the depths of despair, here’s Gotham getting blanked while shipping five goals in Portland in July:
Pretty much same-old-same-old except Freeman replaces Johnson, Cudjoe replaces Kawasumi who moves up to Monaghan’s spot who moves across the field to where Purce was. Sheehan replaces an injured Mewis, and Taylor Smith is in Iffy’s #9 spot.
Worked like lead water wings, too, so there.
Here they are in August losing in Seattle 4-1:
Betos has replaced Harris and Ellie Jean has replaced Dorsey. Johnson is back and so is Freeman as CBs, and Dydasco is back at RB. Mewis is in for Kawasumi with Taryn Torres at DM. Monaghan and Purce are back on the wings with Zerboni as ACM, Smith returns as center forward.
Finally here they are in October as they claw a 3-3- draw and we lose the Shield:
Dorsey is back alongside Freeman and Johnson. Smith, weirdly, gets pulled all the way back to LB. Zerboni and Krieger are DMs behind the familiar AM line of Purce-Mewis-Kawasumi. Onumonu bags her goal at center forward.
See why I don’t get the huge swing between the Harris/Betos xG-againsts? Pretty much the same backline, same midfield, same forwards. Crap, but fairly uniform crap. I don’t get why the two keepers faced such different chances.
One thing that WAS consistent is how outplayed this roster was. Here’s the attacking stats for each of these games for which I’ve shown the Gotham XI:
The only category that’s even close is the crosses Gotham was able to put in against Portland. I think that says more about how bad we were at preventing crosses rather than any skill on Gotham’s part, though.
Changes for 2023
Gotham was – utterly unsurprisingly – very active shifting bodies around after the awful 2022. Let’s start from back to front.
Shelly Betos is still here, but Ashlyn Harris retired at the end of last season. For some bizarre reason the Goths signed Abby Smith off the waiver wire (to a three year deal, no less!).
The backline now includes Brazilian defender Bruninha (from Santos – she also has five caps for Brazil) and Kristen Edmonds, signed as a free agent from Kansas City. Estelle Johnson is gone, however, lost as a free agent to North Carolina. The Goths picked up Kelly O’Hara from Washington.
In midfield Gotham traded for Victoria Pickett from Kansas City, and will probably have Allie Long back from pregnancy leave. They have Yazmeen Ryan listed as a midfielder as well but, as we know from our final grades post, Ryan is a true winger even more than an attacking outside mid.
Up front Gotham dealt Paige Monaghan to Lousville for Bairdbux and picks during the 2023 draft. But probably the biggest move was to deal picks to Kansas City for forward Lynn Williams.
The pre-draft trade left Gotham with only two picks in the 2023 Draft. They took:
Jenna Nighswonger (center forward) – 1st round #4 – one of the best regarded attackers in the draft, and,
Iliana Hocking (defensive midfielder) – 4th round #44 – Henderson thought she would help with the defensive woes.
Well, I love Shelly, but at this point she’s kind of a “replacement-level” keeper. Not awful, but not someone who’s going to be able to save a bad backline. The Goths have four keepers (including Smith) but I don’t see anyone who’s going to pull this defense up.
It’s hard for me to guess with this midfield. Nighswonger looks promising, Mewis and Kawasumi are always steady. I still kind of like Long’s skillset, but I’m not sure she’s still got the four or five goals in her that could really help this outfit. Ryan should help up front to replace the goals lost with Monaghan.
And speaking of goals, Midge Purce, Iffy, and Taylor Smith need to do better this season. This whole “Gotham-is-where-goals-disappear” thing has got to stop if this club is ever going to get off the floor. Williams is kind of a mystery.
She was a producer for Riley (spit!) in Cary, nicking 7 goals over 18 starts in 2021, 12 goals in 23 starts the full season before that (2019) and 14 goals in her MVP-candidate season of 2018.
She’s also 29 and coming off a brutal hamstring tear that knocked her out for all of 2022. She’s not a future for Gotham – her career will only continue to slide as she ages out – but she knows how to score, and that was a massive problem for Gotham last season. Like the payday loan commercial says, “If you have a shit offense and you need goals now/Call Lynn Williams, 877-goals-now!”
If she’s healthy and on form, Williams should get Gotham goals.
How they’ll look next year?
I have no idea how to fix this mess, so I’m just going to throw this out for discussion:
Williams starts over Smith if she’s healthy. That’s pretty much a lock.
Ryan is pretty strongly right-footed, so I’m going to move Midge over to LW and believe Allie Long that she really be an effective #8. Z-Bone moves back alongside Mewis in the back of midfield.
In back I’m going to assume that Dorsey and Dydasco return as fullbacks, and some version of Freeman-Bruninha-Edmonds are the centerbacks. Pickett doesn’t look like a starter and neither does O’Hara, tho I could see her filling in for Dydasco at RB.
Betos? Well…she’s play her ass off, I’ll say that. But I’m not sure she’s got a lock on the starting slot and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to start Smith or the rooks, so I’ll leave her in.
Just dire. Hard to say whether this outfit can get significantly better since it would be damn difficult for them to get worse, well…maybe they’ll finish 11th or something next year. Still bad, but maybe a trifle less-bad.
Possibly the Spoon again. I don’t see them getting anywhere close to the red line unless the entire table blows up or lightning strikes or the dead rise from their graves, real wrath-of-God stuff. Might sneak into 10th or somewhere a skosh higher if a couple of the other bottom feeders have some back luck, but other than that? Nope.
Will they be dangerous? It’d take damn near a miracle, or Purce, Onumonu, Ryan, Long, and half the rest of the roster having career years.
Can the Thorns beat them? Well, as the final match last regular season shows, we can drop points to damn near anyone. But it’s gonna take a LOT of trying. So, yes, nine out of ten times these poor schmoes will be dead meat in front of Portland.
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8 thoughts on “2023 S-2 Briefing: NY/NJ Gotham FC”
Is it possible that Harris made a habit of slapping her defenders upside the head like Moe, at least verbally? And that, surprising as it might be, they didn’t like that treatment? I have nothing in the way of evidence for this speculation, just a general impression.
Well, if she did they deserved it; they’re professionals, and should have done at least as well for the better of the two keepers. Shelly is more loveable, though (everyone she plays will seems to say that…) so maybe it was a personality issue. Shouldn’t have been…but that stuff does happen.
I didn’t mean to suggest that the defenders were dogging it or trying to make her look bad, just that they might not have had the wholehearted commitment that could have made them better for her. Even professionals may struggle with compartmentalization; any of us may have emotions that leak into areas where they’re not helpful.
Oh, I get that. That said, this is their living, and there’s good money to be made getting to the postseason. If the Gotham backline couldn’t be arsed to do better because they didn’t like Harris’ personally? Well, they’re the poorer for it.
I’ll be curious to see whether Smith gets any minutes this season, and how they do in front of her, if so. Smith seems like a fairly likeable person. Scary in goal, but likeable…
I forgot what happened with Allie Long last year. Twins! Congrats to her. I wonder if she’ll still be “clenched fist Allie Long”….
I’ve never questioned her drive and work ethic.I’m sure she’ll be fit and leave it all on the pitch.
Her headspace, though? Hmmm.
First time I questioned that was in 2017 when she insisted she was a #8. Problem was, Portland then had the best #8 in the world in Lindsey Horan. If Long thought she could play Horan out of the starting #8? She was delusional.
So her role was, by default, either a wide midfielder – for which I think she lacked the straight-ahead pace – or a #6…and she never worked hard enough on her defending to be a decent six. She’s improved a lot since then! But, again, it made me question her thought processes.
Same-same when she insisted on playing through her injury in 2018. That cost Seattle; she was brutally ineffective and Parsons, who knew her well and could see it, used that to boss her around and win the midfield.
I still really like her skills. But sometime I wonder how high her “soccer intelligence” is. That can be a limiting as a heavy first touch or a slow pace can be, and I wonder if that’s held her back through much of her career?
What happened to Iffy Onamanu in their starting lineup. And actually I see Purse as an even more right-footed player than Ryan. Since Purse is the senior player I think she will want the right side. I hope Yaz gets to play a lot because with 2024 being an expansion year she could wind up on a better team. I say that because I think this team has too many attackers and defense is probably the weakest spot. I think Williams and Purse might be competing for a National team spot so those two will be working hard on their finishing. With the speed they have up front they will be dangerous. Plus Long, Zerboni and Mewis give them some bite in the midfield.
If Williams is fit? Onumonu sits. It’s really that simple.
I’m not sure where you’re getting the “Purce is a RW” thing from. Her spell of dominance in 2019 featured three games at LW (between 6/2/19 and 6/22/19, 3 goals) and one at LF (6/30/19, 1 goal). She played RW for Gotham and got three goals over the whole season. I suspect that, right-footed or no, she might fare better at LW than Ryan, who has really never played there…
I’m not sure whether Long is still the player she was; if she is, yes. Mewis is fine but Zerboni at this point is just sort of a “good squad player”. I don’t know if they can help this outfit enough, tho. I still think they’ll need a crap-ton of luck to escape the cellar…