Gotham FC’s NWSL championship defense officially gets underway with new USWNT stars in mix

Gotham FC didn’t rest after storming to the NWSL championship in 2023 following a last-place finish the previous year.

That taste of immediate success under first-year coach Juan Carlos Amoros led to the local women’s soccer league franchise reloading its roster this offseason with four U.S. national team regulars among eight new signings, including Long Island product and USWNT staple Crystal Dunn.

Following a 1-0 home loss to the San Diego Wave on a late Alex Morgan header last weekend in the Challenge Cup, the Gotham title defense officially will begin in the regular-season opener Sunday night in Portland against the Thorns.

Gotham FC midfielder Delanie Sheehan (17) moves the ball against San Diego Wave FC midfielder Savanah McCaskill (21) during the first half of the Challenge Cup match at Red Bull Arena. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Alex Morgan #13 of the San Diego Wave FC and Emily Sonnett #6 of the NY/NJ Gotham FC fight for the ball during the second half of the 2024 NWSL Challenge Cup match at Red Bull Arena on March 15. Getty Images

Gotham — which plays its home games at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. — also added USWNT regulars Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett and currently injured Rose Lavelle.

“Going into the second season, it’s about showing who we are on the football pitch and also maintaining the high-performance environment that we have established here,” second-year coach Amoros told The Post. “It will take some time with the new players.

“There was an international competition that they were gone through much of the preseason period for several weeks, so with them being away with the national team, that process has been a bit different. But they are really pushing to be the best versions of themselves and to be able to help the team.”

Cassie Miller of Gotham FC stops a shot during the second half of the 2024 NWSL Challenge Cup. Getty Images

Amoros took over last year following a 4-17-1 finish the previous year, and Gotham finished sixth in the regular season standings (8-7-7) before defeating North Carolina, Portland and Seattle in the playoffs for the first title in franchise history.

“It was an amazing sense of fulfillment,” Amoros said. “The situation was not ideal, but you come in with certain ideas, and when you are able to connect really well with some fantastic players and staff, that was the key to the success. … We had an idea when we came in of what we wanted to do, and we were able to implement it.

“It all started with the belief from the players ,and for me that is the key — that connection we were able to have and the path that we were able to follow.”

Gotham FC coach Juan Carlos Amoros is ready for a title defense. Getty Images

Gotham was without Lavelle and returning star striker Lynn Williams due to leg injuries last week against San Diego, and will be again Sunday, but more than 14,000 fans showed up at Red Bull Arena last week — a significant boost from last year’s average home attendance of roughly 6,300 per home match.

“I think our performance especially in the first half was fantastic,” Amoros said. “The players were executing the game plan perfectly, and the atmosphere and the fans were amazing. But we know the reality of this league is if you have one lapse in concentration this league is ruthless.

“It was painful to give up a goal in the last minute, but we will continue to get better.”

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