Gotham FC’s Oct. 6 home game against the Washington Spirit has been moved to Subaru Park as part of the celebrations of Carli Lloyd’s final season as a player.
“We are honored to provide Carli an opportunity to play one of her final matches in front of her friends, family, and hometown fans,” Gotham FC’s chairperson and majority owner Tammy Murphy said in a statement. “She is a true legend in the sport and has inspired an entire generation of players to play with strength and determination. It is my privilege on behalf of ownership and the entire Gotham FC community to provide her the send-off she deserves.”
(Tammy Murphy’s husband, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, is also part of Gotham’s ownership group.)
It’s the second time that the two clubs have collaborated this year. The first was in May, when the Union offered to host the NWSL Challenge Cup final at Subaru Park if the game needed to be moved from Portland, Ore., for pandemic reasons. The game ended up staying in the Rose City.
You can be sure that the Union’s work with Gotham has gotten attention around the NWSL. And if the game draws a big crowd, it will get a lot of attention for Philadelphia as a potential NWSL expansion market.
“This concept has been on our radar for a while,” Union president Tim McDermott said on Thursday. “I’ve had discussions with the folks at Gotham about being interested in playing down here. It serves as an interesting data point for us.
“This has been something we’ve discussed for quite a long time and then during COVID, it went away so to speak. Then when Carli made her announcement, we thought it was a great chance to bring it all together. It’s exciting.”
Lloyd, 39, was made aware of the farewell match at Subaru Park recently and expressed gratitude to all the parties involved to make the match happen in her home market.
“At the end of the day, no one has to do this and it’s a lot of coordinating,” Lloyd said. “The league has to change things. The Spirit has to be OK with it. The Union, there’s a lot of parties involved. For them to turn this around very quickly and make it happen, it’s going to be a memory that lasts a lifetime.
“I know my friends and family are all excited to be able to come out. I’m soaking things in a lot differently on the field. I’m trying to slow things down, enjoy the moment and savor the opportunity,” she added.
Lloyd and other dignitaries from Gotham and the Union gathered Thursday afternoon at Subaru Park for a news conference to make the official announcement.
“I am beyond thankful to Gotham FC and the Philadelphia Union for making this happen,” Lloyd said. “To have the opportunity to play in front of my home crowd on the club level will be an amazing memory.”
It will, believe it or not, be Lloyd’s first time playing for a club team in a Philadelphia-area pro sports venue. Though the Delran native has played for the U.S. national team many times at Lincoln Financial Field and Subaru Park, the closest Lloyd has come for a club game was Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. Gotham played at Lloyd’s alma mater under the club’s old name, Sky Blue FC, from 2009 to ‘19. Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., became the team’s new home this spring.
Lloyd was on club teams early in her career that visited the old Philadelphia Independence in Women’s Professional Soccer, the league that preceded the current National Women’s Soccer League. But due to injury, United States women’s national team duty, and a suspension, she did not play in any of the four games the Independence hosted against her clubs: Sky Blue in 2010 and the Atlanta Beat in 2011.
A number of players from those games are still in Lloyd’s orbit. Amy Rodriguez, who starred for the Independence back then, is likely to play for the North Carolina Courage against Lloyd on Sept. 25 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., Gotham’s current home. (That game will be the first on the sideline for Gotham’s new manager Scott Parkinson.)
Lori Lindsey, another Independence player from back then, broadcasts some of Lloyd’s games on Paramount+ and CBS Sports Network — and might be on the call for the game here, which will be nationally televised on CBSSN.
Estelle Johnson, a stalwart of the Independence’s back line, is now one of Lloyd’s teammates. Heather Mitts, one of Lloyd’s teammates in Atlanta in 2011 (and with the national team for years), will also likely be in the stands in Chester. And one of Lloyd’s old Sky Blue teammates, Yael Averbuch West, is now Gotham’s general manager.
The game will be a homecoming for more than just Lloyd, as Gotham defender Erica Skroski hails from Galloway Township, N.J.; defender Gina Lewandowski is from Coopersburg, Pa.; midfielder Kenie Wright is from Mount Laurel, N.J.; and midfielder Nicole Baxter is from Pennington, N.J.
Lloyd, who is scheduled to play four more friendlies for the United States later this fall, will retire as one of U.S. Soccer’s most accomplished players, having amassed 312 caps (second all-time), 128 goals (fourth all-time), and won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals.
-- Inquirer contributor Joe Tansey contributed to this article.