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Ifeoma Onumonu's early goal lifts Gotham FC to win over OL Reign

Gotham FC's Ifeoma Onumonu jumps for a header

Gotham FC's Ifeoma Onumonu jumps for a header over OL Reign's Megan Rapinoe on Saturday, June 5, 2021, at Red Bull Arena.  Credit: NJ/NY Gotham FC

The way NJ/NY Gotham FC’s defense has played so far this season, it doesn’t need much from its offense to earn a result.

On Saturday, with a dangerous OL Reign side visiting Red Bull Arena, Gotham’s offense did just enough early, setting the tone for the remainder of the match and allowing its defense to do what it does in a 1-0 victory.

Ifeoma Onumonu scored her first of the season, getting all the way up for an early headed goal to change the dynamic of the match. DiDi Haracic made six saves in the victory, her first start of the regular season with starter Kailen Sheridan on international duty, as Gotham FC kept Reign from capitalizing on a few hectic stretches of play to open and close the match.

"I thought we had a very strong first half with our ability to create chances, we moved the ball well, we defended well. " Gotham coach Freya Coombe said. "Obviously they put us under a lot of pressure in the opening minutes and I thought we rode that storm and we were able to weather it and then we had some really good spells in the game."

Gotham (2-1-1, 7 points) survived a few close calls from OL Reign stars Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle, but limited the pair of U.S. women’s national teamers to a combined seven shots en route to Gotham’s third clean sheet of the season, with Haracic thriving in her regualr season debut. The club still has allowed just one goal this season, the best defensive mark in the NWSL.

"DiDi's done it again tonight, being able to keep a clean sheet," Coombe said. "She's been doing really well and I think we have got real depth of goalkeepers at the club and it's really, really pleasing for us to know that without Kailen, we can put DiDi in and she's going to do an absolutely great job."

The game’s deciding moment came in the 13th minute with Gotham’s first set-piece goal of the season. Caprice Dydasco, honored this week in the NWSL team of the month for May, delivered a corner near the far corner of the six-yard box. Onumonu rose high above a pair of Reign defenders, heading the ball back across goal and past a diving Ella Dedrick. Onumonu remained a force for Gotham on both wings throughout, notching a team-high four shots in the match.

After Saturday's matches, Gotham enters its international break in a tie for third place with the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL table, pending other results this weekend. The club returns to action with a road match against the league-best Orlando Pride on June 20.

New York Sports