Gotham FC has sights set on repeat title after splashy offseason

First, Gotham FC won the postseason.

Then they won the offseason.

Now they need to win in the regular season, to back up a storybook, worst-to-first 2023 campaign and continue to feed the club’s ambition to be an industry leader in National Women’s Soccer League and a fixture of the New York sports scene.

In the months after Gotham claimed the NWSL championship last November by winning three straight road playoff games as the No. 6 seed, the club upgraded the roster in splashy and dramatic fashion, signing four free agents who are known as mainstays of the United States women’s national team: defender Tierna Davidson, midfielders Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett, and forward Crystal Dunn, a Long Island native.

The “superteam” label soon followed.

Gabi Portilho of Brazil (right) takes a shot in front of Tierna Davidson of the United States defends during the first half of the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup Final. Getty Images

“Really important to me is that we don’t take our foot off the gas just because we had a good year,” general manager Yael Averbuch West told The Post. “To me, there’s a feeling surrounding what we’re doing and a feeling of progress. We were really inconsistent last season, and the reality is we finished sixth place. We were one touch away from not being in the playoffs.

“We’re very proud of what we did, but our baseline performance has a significant room for improvement.”

That baseline, in the first season under head coach Juan Carlos Amoros, was essentially .500 ball: The Bats — as they are known (because Gotham, get it?) — finished 8-7-7 during the regular season with 25 goals for and 24 against, a marked improvement from a 4-1-17 record the year prior.

The four marquee free agents now join a core that includes forwards Lynn Williams and Midge Purce plus left back Jenna Nighswonger, last season’s Rookie of the Year (those seven players comprised nearly a third of the USWNT roster that won this month’s Gold Cup).

And Spanish forward Esther Gonzalez returns for her first full season after signing with the team last September off a World Cup triumph.

If there’s a question, it’s at the goalkeeper spot. There’s no question the standard has changed for Amoros’ squad.

Rose Lavelle (right) and Brazil midfielder Duda Santos battle for the ball during the first half during of the Gold Cup final. Abe Arredondo-USA TODAY Sports

“He made it very clear the first day of preseason what was on the line for this year for this club,” veteran defender Kelley O’Hara said Thursday. “I think the work that Yael did in the offseason and the free agents that she brought in and the roster that she’s built, in my opinion, sets a very high expectation.”

The season begins Friday night at Red Bull Arena in the Challenge Cup, a one-off game — it won’t count in the standings — pitting defending champions Gotham against the San Diego Wave, the winners of last season’s NWSL Shield as the first-place finisher in the regular season.

The 8 p.m. game will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, the first installment of that signature part of the NWSL’s rich new broadcast deals.

“I hope it’s a great advert for the women’s game,” San Diego coach Casey Stoney said. (Asked whether the showcase game was a chance to prove the Wave was last season’s best team, Stoney replied with a bite, “We were the best team, we won the league.”)

Gotham opens its 26-game slate next Sunday against the Portland Thorns.

The NWSL — arguably the healthiest it’s ever been, having expanded to 14 teams, welcomed new TV partners, raised the salary cap and welcomed an offseason influx of top international players — will pause for nearly two months around the summer’s Olympics tournament.

“We really believe that we reset the league in 2022, [in] 2023 we established the foundation,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said, “and this is the point in which we really feel like the league is going to take off.”

The sentiment is similar around Gotham, an underdog champion turned big-city behemoth ready to put its foot down.

“For me, it’s not about what we’ve done, it’s about what we’re about to do,” Amoros said. “I think we’re building something special. We’ve had a few changes in the roster. We’ve added some fantastic players, fantastic people, and I’m excited to see them play and see them go on the pitch in front of these fans.”

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