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Gotham FC starts roster overhaul as club embarks on another rebuild

(Jonathan Jones/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s once again rebuild season for NJ/NY Gotham FC.

The club announced Friday that players Domi Richardson, Nicole Baxter, Jennifer Cudjoe and Kumi Yokoyama will not return in 2023 after not being extended contracts. The club’s announcement came after the individual players had begun to trickle out statements, thanking fans and the club for their time there.

Baxter, who has been part of the club since 2019 under its previous name, Sky Blue FC, was the first to do so, writing Wednesday that while she’s “disappointed to not be offered a new contract at Gotham, I will always have a very special type of love for the people and fans of this club.”

“Domi, Nicole, Jennifer and Kumi are fan favorites and outstanding players who made significant contributions to Gotham FC on the pitch and in our community,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch said in a statement. “All of us at Gotham FC are deeply appreciative to them for everything they did for our club.”

She later added further comment to Jenna Tonelli, writing that she feels “the same way” about the players as the fans do.

“You never want to say goodbye to people and players of this quality,” said Averbuch. “But my expectation is that in the coming weeks and months, our supporters will see the contracts and moves we are working on, both with our roster and the coaching staff, and will feel excited about the future of Gotham FC.”

The departures come after Gotham finished at the bottom of the table during the regular season, winning just four games and compiling just 13 points across 22 matches.

Gotham parted ways with head coach Scott Parkinson in August, replacing him with interim head coach Hue Menzies. The club did not win a game after Parkinson’s departure but did manage a 3-3 draw against the Portland Thorns in the season finale on Oct. 1.

Gotham FC made key acquisitions last offseason in Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris as part of an attempted rebuild. The couple cited wanting to live in a more progressive place as a reason for the move — but also their desire to win championships.

“They are in the process of building something special, and in doing so, it’s funding, investment, it’s making your players feel wanted, needed, special, all the things that they deserve,” Harris told Just Women’s Sports last December.

Despite the on-field performance, those sentiments still ring true. Carli Lloyd, Kevin Durant, Sue Bird and Eli Manning have all joined the club’s ownership group, and Averbuch is committed to creating a winning team.

But despite the commitment from big-name stars on and off the pitch, the results haven’t lived up to expectations

In an article in The Athletic in early September, Averbuch cited the team’s age and the need to strike a balance between building for the future and utilizing veteran experience.

“It has to do with balancing players to bring out one another’s best characteristics, and looking at partnerships,” Averbuch said. “And not just partnerships between two players, but among players who will be on the same side of the field or in different (areas), working as the defense into the midfield or, the midfield into the forward line.

“Nothing is ever as simple as it looks on the outside,” Averbuch continued, speaking of the GM role. “I knew that going in. But really, it strikes me all the time how complex a culture of an organization or a club really is.”