It was a night that was about more than just soccer. Gotham FC's game against the Washington Spirit was the first match played following the explosive report in The Athletic which detailed multiple allegations of abusive behavior by a former coach Paul Riley and the subsequent suspension of last Saturday's matches.
With just over 9,500 in attendance, Wednesday night's fixture set Gotham's single-game home attendance record, with the second and third highest occurring in 2019 during the team's first two games at Red Bull Arena.
The home match was played at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. It had been moved to the Philadelphia area stadium to honor Carli Lloyd, a native Delran, NJ, as she plays her final games before retiring at age 39. In fact, with every touch of the ball from Lloyd, the stadium erupted into cheers that are usually reserved for when a goal is scored.
Wednesday's match also marked 100 appearances for Gotham FC's Caprice Dydasco.
@Imdorsey96 had ‘em on 🔒 threw away the 🔑
— NJ/NY Gotham FC (@GothamFC) October 7, 2021
Despite the score line, Wednesday's match had plenty of action. With 14 shots on goal, all three starting forwards, Carli Lloyd, Margaret "Midge" Purce, and Ifeoma Onumonu, had shots go just wide of goal. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan once again proved why she is among the highest rated keepers in the league making three saves, including important late-game saves to keep the match tied. Allie Long picked up a yellow card in the 79' and will miss Gotham's next match due to yellow card accumulation.
Even with the celebratory atmosphere, the focus of the evening was not entirely on the soccer. Unexpectedly, in the 6th minute, the referee blew his whistle and play stopped. All players from both the Washington Spirit and Gotham FC went to the center of the field and linked arms for a moment of silence in protest of the league's failings to create a safe work environment and protect players from abuse.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 6, 2021
Just before, NWSL Players Association put out the explanation on Twitter. All three of Wednesday night's matches saw the same actions in the 6th minute, with the NWSL players sending a powerful message to the league and their fans that there will be no more silence. The NWSLPA also put out their list of demands on Twitter, which included independent investigations of abuse allegations, more transparency from the league, and an opportunity to have input on the next commissioner.
— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) October 6, 2021
Following the game, Carli Lloyd commented on the "amazing atmosphere" at Subaru Park. "This team and the league deserve to play in front of so many fans," Lloyd said about the high attendance numbers. She thanked the Gotham FC staff for all the work they put into moving the game from Red Bull Arena to Subaru Park for her farewell celebration.
Commenting on the mood of the team, Lloyd said, "It's been emotional - mental and emotional exhaustion is worse than physical exhaustion. For Mana [Shim], Sinead [Farrelly], and several others that have had to go through what they have gone through is incredibly devastating and sad to read." She went on to say, "I hope and wish that this is a huge reset for this league to just start doing things right from the top down. We as players deserve the best." She described the moment in the 6th minute where they all linked arms as "a powerful moment."
Imani Dorsey, who was named Player of the Match, said the past week had been "incredibly difficult, emotional, and heart breaking." Dorsey is also a player representative for Gotham FC on the NWSLPA. She described that on calls, there was a lot of anger as people tried to figure out what to do in order to make the league hear them.
"I understand [why fans would boycott the league], I am very upset and frustrated with our league currently, and I think every player could say that. But I know that we want this league to be the best league in the world, and we expect it to be," Dorsey said. She went on to explain that if any fan is feeling failed, they should put their faith in the NWSLPA and the players as they use their voices and engage in collective action to demand the league to be better. "We're not going to hide behind some fantasy that we just do it for the love of the game. We love the game, but we want it to be better for the next generation."
Can Gotham FC Make A Strong Playoff Push?
With just five games left in the season, Gotham FC is making their final push for a playoff spot. Head Coach Scott Parkinson said, "We have a good team, we have a good style, and we're ready to rock and roll!"
Gotham FC's hits the road for their next game on Saturday, October 9th against the Orlando Pride. The game kicks off at 7pm ET and can be streamed on Paramount+.