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Washington Spirit’s Hot Start Continues with Win Over Struggling NJ/NY Gotham FC: Rookie Croix Bethune Shines

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Washington Spirit's Hot Start Continues with Win Over Struggling NJ/NY Gotham FC: Rookie Croix Bethune Shines

After missing the 2023 postseason on the final day of the season, the Washington Spirit are off to a flying start in the 2024 regular season. The Spirit defeated reigning 2023 NWSL champion NJ/NY Gotham FC by 2 on Saturday. -0, with goals from rookie Croix Bethune and Ashley Hatch. It is the fourth victory in a row for the Spirit and the third on home field.

Here are some insights from the game:

An early candidate for Rookie of the Year

Bethune, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NWSL draft, has gotten an early start on her Rookie of the Year resume. The 23-year-old midfielder scored the opening goal and won the penalty to secure a victory over Gotham. She scored three goals in five games with the Spirit.

Bethune doesn’t play the game as a first-year professional. With her vision and creativity, she discovered early chemistry alongside her teammates.

“I mean, she sees the game. And I think it’s very important for us to have midfielders who can turn and look forward… have the confidence to hold the ball and see things. I think that that is very important,” said Trinity Rodman after the match. agreement.

“I think sometimes we try to move forward too fast, and sometimes we hold the ball too long. So I think she sees the game very well. I think she has confidence in the ball, that’s what we need in the match.” the middle. At the end of the day, execution is everything, and she does just that.”

Audi field fort

The Spirit are now on a four-game win streak with three of their victories at home at Audi Field. It is only the second year that the team has played full-time in the MLS stadium upgrade has been a factor in their success, along with additional investments and resources by owner Michele Kang. More than 15,000 fans attended Saturday’s game, the fourth highest attended regular season game.

With a home advantage you can go much further, but for the Spirit it’s all about tactics. For Bethune, it was about sticking to the plan to take down Gotham.

“I feel like it’s a little bit of both,” Bethune said of frustrating Gotham with their style. “But more than that, our game plan and I feel like we executed it perfectly. With training we knew what we wanted to do. When the game came, we executed, found the weak points and put the ball back in the net. So I feel like we did what we wanted to do.”

It’s only week five of a 26-game regular season and interim head coach Adrian Gonzalez is trying to implement initial ideas while new manager Jonatan Giraldez arrives in June. Giraldez will join the Spirit as the new Spirit head coach after FC Barcelona’s season and Gonzalez will remain as a full-time assistant. Gonzalez is happy with the wins, but knows it only scratches the surface of their ceiling.

“Far away. They know no boundaries,” Gonzalez joked in the postgame about how far the team has to go. “So I’m going to push them every day because they want to get better. They want to improve. We still have a lot of things to improve, a lot of talent to show, but we’re already working on that. I think now We’re going to start [to] building something very, very powerful. But our mentality is ‘every day we can improve’ and they are humbled too. We are all ready to improve and I hope the team can improve even more in the future.”

Super team stress

Gotham FC made big headlines this offseason for all the players they were able to sign through free agency. Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson, Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett were all introduced as Gotham’s ‘Class of 2024’. The moves were largely praised and appeared to set the squad up for a long season, but the quartet of marquee players have yet to start a match together.

Lavelle is recovering from a lower leg injury at the start of the year and is yet to make his debut for the East Coast side, while Davidson, Sonnett and Dunn have balanced minutes for both club and country. The club’s newest signings aren’t the only players to be injured, and general manager Yael Averbuch West has said that the organization working on long-term solutions for their players.

Still, they have enough talent at their disposal to pick up points, but they have just one win in four games to start the season. Head coach Juan Carlos Amoros has been vocal about the players’ minutes management, but tactics and game plan are the responsibility of the coaching staff, and the home side were quick to address Gotham’s gaps.

“I think no matter what team we’re playing, we’re obviously trying to see which side we can expose them to,” Rodman said as he broke Gotham’s high line after the game.

“For me and Croix [Bethune], that was the left side. We started on the right side and weren’t that successful and as soon as we went left Casey Krueger played a ball inside and we got that chance and then it was like back-to-back. For us I think it’s just tactics and seeing who plays where and how they defend and their right back went very high so that left a lot of space for us to attack,” she explained.

Olympic concerns on the horizon

Gotham FC and U.S. women’s national team center back Tierna Davidson left the match in the 21st minute after stopping for a recovery run. The Spirit’s early attempts to play behind Gotham were a problem throughout the match, and as Davidson made a covering run, she grabbed the back of her thigh and called for a trainer. She was able to walk away on her own and later sat on Gotham’s couch.

The potential hamstring problem comes with the Olympics just months away, and fellow USWNT centerback Naomi Girma only recently returned to play on Friday due to a ‘thigh strain’. Gotham FC head coach Amoros had no immediate update on Davidson’s postgame.

“Obviously she had to come off, which is never a good sign. We’ll have to evaluate, wait for the medical tests we have to do and go from there,” he explained. “We are looking internally at how we can do better in that area, because at the moment it is no secret that we have a lot of injuries. We analyze everything as a club to make sure we can do better.”

Davidson’s injury comes a day after Wave FC and USWNT forward Alex Morgan injured her ankle during Friday’s match against Orlando Pride. Morgan suffered the injury late in the match and the Wave ran out of substitutions and finished the match with 10 players. There is currently no official update on Morgan’s status.