The 2021 WPSL newcomers face off for the first time with both clubs looking to extend their impressive unbeaten starts to the season.
Published Jun 12, 2021
Photo Credit:  Real Central NJ media

In what are two important new inclusions into the rich soccer tapestry of regional rivalries in the area, Sunday sees the latest additions to the Greater New York and New Jersey centric Metropolitan Conference South Division as the NJ/NY Gotham Reserves and Real Central NJ face off in the WPSL for the first time.

After entering the league at the beginning of this season, both clubs have hit the ground running in their inaugural WPSL campaigns, carrying undefeated records into Sunday’s matchup against their newest regional rivals. With both clubs sitting at the top of the table in the Metropolitan Conference South Division, a victory in this match will serve as a statement of intent in the league and could very well lay the groundwork for an exciting new rivalry moving forward.

Led by the NWSL’s Gotham FC’s assistant coach, Becki Tweed, and partner club Downtown United Soccer Club’s Girls Academy coach, Eleri Earnshaw, the newly minted Gotham Reserves have wasted no time making their presence felt in the league. Through their first two games they have crafted a formidable attack that has been ruthless in front of goal – finding the back of the net an incredible 14 times so far while boasting an impressive defensive-core that has only allowed two goals in that time.

So far, the “Baby Goths” high-powered attack has been led by Hope Breslin, Bella Sember and Lumi Kostmayer. The trio, having produced 10 of their 14 goals, are forming what looks to be an increasingly coherent and fluid unit moving forward. Back in April, Gotham FC general manager, Alyse LaHue, remarked that this new Reserves side will look to “develop a pipeline of talent towards the pro team”, and so far, this squad have certainly turned some heads within the main club.

In their last match against PSA Monmouth, Gotham Reserves ran out 9-1 victors, with Bella Sember earning Player of the Match honors after a dominant three-goal, one-assist performance. Sember’s performance was highlighted by a 52-minute rocket from just outside the 18 that threatened to take the netting off of the goal. Gotham were able to exploit PSA’s high defensive line early in the match through the intelligent running of Lumi Kostmayer and the impressive vision of University of Buffalo product, Ashley Ladner. Pulling the strings from midfield, Ladner was able to open up PSA with cutting through-balls that scythed through their defensive line aloowing Kostmayer to evade the PSA offside-trap and run clear through on-goal to score twice in the opening 45 minutes.

As the match progressed, Gotham continuously found ways to beat PSA’s high-line trap with these well-timed runs and passes from throughout their lineup, with Hope Breslin scoring twice and Asako Ideue finding the net once in the second half through the effectiveness of this approach-- something that may just test the high-press system Real Central NJ has shown an affinity towards in their previous matches.

Real Central NJ have also hit the ground running so far this season, with the only thing slowing down their red-hot start being the inclement weather that saw their June 9th match against STA abandoned in the ‘53 minute while deadlocked at 1-1.

In their previous match against Match Fit Academy, Real Central NJ found ways to exploit the spaces between Match Fit Academy’s lines and utilize their attacking prowess to put the match beyond their opponents. Their opening goal came through outside midfielder, Raenah Campbell, who was able to slip past her defender, find a seam between the two Match Fit Academy centre-backs and fire a bullet from over 20-yards out into the top left-hand corner of the goal.

Campbell has shown her intention to run at defenders so far this season and this goal perfectly encapsulates the attacking threat she poses from anywhere on the pitch. With Campbell’s threat from her attacking position out wide mixed with the offensive punch forward Tatum Gee showed in her two goal outing against Inter AC in week two, the Trenton-based side have begun to establish a pacy, dynamic attack that has seen them outscore their opponents 7-2 so far this season.

Sunday’s match will certainly be a battle of wills between two clubs looking to impose themselves on the match in different ways.

Gotham Reserves favour a more possession-based build up to their attack, cycling the ball back into the midfield or their own defensive areas to patiently rebuild an attack if they don’t see something they like, before looking to exploit the spaces in between an opponent's lines. Defensively, they maintain positional and formational solidity to stifle out their opponent’s attack, choosing precise moments to press.

Real Central NJ have shown that they favour a more direct game to catch their opponents on the backfoot, utilizing the speed and technical abilities of their attacking players to beat defenders 1v1 or to reach knocked-on balls first. Out of possession, Brian Thomsen’s, Real Central NJ’s head coach, side looks set out to employ an up-tempo, high-press to pin an opponent back and catch them in possession deep in their own areas in an effort to regain possession to launch attacks from dangerous areas of the pitch.

With both teams looking to continue their hot starts, Sunday’s matchup could go a long way in deciding how the top of the table in the Metropolitan South Division shapes up at the end of the season.

Real Central NJ currently lead the table over the second placed Gotham Reserves with ten points to Gotham’s six by merit of having played two more games (including the one which was cancelled shortly after half) and will be looking to extend their stronghold atop the standings. Gotham, on the other hand, can put a real dent in their neighbor’s aspirations with a win and will look to continue their convincing 100% record this season. In a time that has provided us with so many uncertainties, the form of these two teams coming into Sunday provides us with one thing we can certainly expect to see: goals. Buckle up.


Sunday’s match kicks-off at 6:00pm ET at Mercer Stadium in New Jersey and can be streamed live on Eleven Sports, formerly known as MyCujoo, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.


    Author:   Ryan Lindsay,  @noryanorreason (twitter)
                  WPSL Contributor - East Region