The Spirit were shut out in the opening match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup.

The Takeaways:

  • Spirit’s First Challenge Cup Game of 2023 The first match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup for the Washington Spirit has finally arrived. In 2022, the Spirit made it to the Challenge Cup championship, ending the match with a 2-1 loss to NC Courage. With a new system, look and feel to this season for the Spirit, it’s fair to wonder if all of these changes will impact their outcome this season.
  • A Glimpse of the Old Spirit Team? With such a strong start to the NWSL season, it’s hard not to compare every detail to the drastically different season the Spirit had last year. A different lineup than that of the first few matches of the regular season weren’t the only noticeable differences for the Spirit with Ashley Hatch and Trinity Rodman – leading goal scorers for the team, unavailable for this match. Despite any wavering faith in the Spirit’s new system and any hiccups during this season, the old Spirit team is long gone. 

Box Score: NJ/NY Gotham FC 1-0 Washington Spirit

NWSL Challenge Cup – Match 1

First Half – 

The opening half of the Spirit’s first Challenge Cup match of 2023 started with changes to their usual lineup, with four rookies starting. Among those rookies was midfielder Paige Metayer in her first match back since getting a red card against Racing Louisville on April 1. 

An early shot on goal from Gotham was saved by Kingsbury, as they started the match controlling the momentum, with their number of shots on goal being higher than the Spirit’s. Washington had an offensive play, with forward Civana Kuhlmann getting a shot on goal, but soon after Gotham had the ball, continuing their momentum.

Sam Staab’s presence can always be felt during a game, as she blocks shots and creates impressive tackles, but this match she seemed to be everywhere. Staab took two back-to-back corner kicks that ended with no goals for the Spirit; nonetheless the pressure from her and Metayer combined made it harder for Gotham to get by them easily. The opening half was nearing its end as Sheva soared through Gotham defenders, with a shot on goal, just barely off. 

The first half ended scoreless.

Second Half –

The offensive plays in the second half came early, with a blocked shot on goal by Spirit’s Nicole Douglas. Soon after Douglas’s blocked shot, Gotham got the ball and began controlling the momentum once again, as Williams scored at the 56th minute of the match, putting the ball in the bottom right corner of the Spirit’s goal, going just by Kingsbury. 

At the 61st minute, midfielders Marissa Sheva and Douglas were subbed off for Chloe Ricketts and Ashley Sanchez. Kingsbury made another save from a Gotham shot on goal, as Gotham maintained their offensive control after scoring. Sanchez received a yellow card, the first of the match, at the 74th minute. Gotham nearly double their lead when McCall Zerboni, with speed, got the ball and took a shot, but the ball went right off the post.

The match official added 5 minutes of stoppage time. Gotham’s Jenna Nighswonger got her team’s first yellow of the match at the 90+1st minute. Staab’s intensity never wavered, but the offensive chances were no longer in the Spirits favor as the match neared its end. As the final minutes of the match arrived, Ifeoma Onumonu got a chance to secure Gotham’s win with a second goal, but the ball was wide, going out of bounds. 

The Spirit’s first NWSL Challenge Cup game of 2023 ended with them being shut out, 1-0.

Washington Spirit Goals – 

NJ/NY Gotham Goals – Williams 56’


Washington (433)

(C)Kingsbury; Bailey (Carle 46’), Brooks, Staab, Elwell; Metayer, Sullivan (Baggett 46’), Sheva (Ricketts 61’); Douglas (Sanchez 61’), Kuhlmann (Jaurena 82’), Silano

NJ/NY Gotham (433)

Haught; Smith, (C)Krieger (Long 63’), Jean, Bruninha; Farrelly (Nighswonger 84’), Zerboni, Mewis (Martin 63’); Onumonu, Guõmundsdótir (Purce 46’), Williams (Ryan 64’)

Misconduct Summary:

Washington Spirit- Sanchez 74’

NJ/NY Gotham- Nighswonger 90’

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I’m glad that Ricketts continues to get minutes.

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