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Former coach Rory Dames accused of sexual misconduct in youth soccer

(Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames is facing more allegations of misconduct, with multiple players from his youth soccer club in Chicago accusing him of sexual misconduct in a bombshell report by the Washington Post on Tuesday.

The story unearthed allegations dating back decades, including from a former youth player who said Dames groomed her and had sex with her once she turned 18.

Dames stepped down as president of Eclipse Select, the youth club he owned in suburban Chicago and built into a national powerhouse, last year after he resigned as coach of the Red Stars. His resignation came as the Washington Post was preparing to report multiple allegations of emotional and verbal abuse against the coach from former NWSL players.

According to a police report obtained by the Post, Arlington Heights police formally investigated Dames’ conduct in 1998 when a former player (and minor at the time) complained that Dames had touched her inappropriately on her upper thigh.

Megan Cnota, a former teenage player for Dames who went on the record in the Washington Post story, told police that Dames had made sexual jokes about her. A handful of other players said Dames, who was 25 years old at the time, would make comments about sex and their bodies and seemed to be spending extended time with young players off the field.

After the accusers decided not to file formal complaints, the investigation was closed, and Dames kept his job as coach of the Eclipse Select youth soccer club.

“We tried to make it come to light 25 years ago,” Cnota told the Washington Post, “and nobody believed those teenagers.”

Dames continued to coach youth soccer, and eventually was hired as Red Stars head coach in 2013 for the NWSL’s first season. When he resigned in November, he was the NWSL’s longest-tenured head coach.

The Washington Post found that Dames was also the subject of a 2018 U.S. Soccer Federation investigation, after NWSL players made formal complaints on two separate occasions, but U.S. Soccer did not discipline him as a result. A spokesman for U.S. Soccer declined to comment on the recent allegations, citing an ongoing NWSL investigation.

One player on Dames’ youth team told the Washington Post that Dames started an inappropriate relationship with her when she was 14. In the early 2000s, while she was still playing under Dames, she says he had sex with her after she turned 18. The woman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post she felt like it wasn’t a choice, citing his power over her burgeoning soccer career.

Players also accused Dames of fostering a culture of abuse at the heralded Eclipse Select club, saying he called them names when they were teenagers, such as “c–t,” “fat ass,” “p—y” and “retarded.”

Dames was responsible for hiring John Soltani at Eclipse. Soltani was placed on a two-year probation after the U.S. Center sanctioned him for verbal acts of sexual harassment.

Mike Nesci, who replaced Dames as president of Eclipse Select last year, did not respond to questions from the Washington Post on whether Dames still owned the club.

A lawyer for Dames, Susan Bogart, denied the allegations of sexual harassment and grooming against him in an email to the Post. She said the former coach didn’t call players names and said the allegations outlined in the 1998 police report were “unfounded.”

The NWSL has opened multiple investigations into leadership within the league after multiple coaches were fired for misconduct last season.