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NWSL whistleblower Sinead Farrelly signs with Gotham FC

(Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

More than seven years after playing in her last NWSL match, Sinead Farrelly is returning to the league with Gotham FC.

The 33-year-old midfielder joined the New Jersey-based club for the preseason as a non-roster invitee and the club  announced her signing on Saturday.

“I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received to help me reach this point, because I could not have done this alone,” Farrelly said in a press release issued by Gotham.

“I want to be a key player for Gotham FC, while also having grace and compassion with myself as I acclimate back into the professional environment. There were times when this did not feel possible for me. But I have made it to this moment, and I’m going to keep building on it. As I continue, I hope to inspire others to follow their dreams, no matter how far out of reach they may seem.”

Farrelly last played in an NWSL regular-season match for the Portland Thorns in 2015. In September 2021, she went public with her experience of sexual abuse at the hands of former Thorns coach Paul Riley.

The allegations made by Farrelly and by her former Thorns teammate Mana Shim prompted the firing of Riley by the North Carolina Courage and the opening of wider abuse investigations by the NWSL and its players association as well as U.S. Soccer.

Farrelly had played under Riley on a semi-pro team, in the Women’s Professional Soccer league and then with the Thorns, and the sexual coercion continued with each team, she told The Athletic.

After the 2015 season with the Thorns, Farrelly was traded to the Boston Breakers, but she sat out the 2016 season with injuries sustained in a car crash. She announced her retirement after the 2016 season.

“It took me years away from the game to gain the awareness of how power imbalance works and to be able to tell people close to me what happened,” she told The Athletic.

Thanks in no small part to her decision to speak out about her experiences, Farrelly returns to a changed league, one which is making sweeping changes to improve player safety.

The game, though, remains the same, and Farrelly proved this preseason that she still can play. She scored the opening goal for Gotham FC in the team’s second preseason scrimmage, a 4-0 win against Florida State in late February. She will be available in Gotham’s season opener against Angel City.

“Sinead is not only an outstanding athlete, but one of the most admired people in our sport,” Gotham FC General Manager and Head of Soccer Operations Yael Averbuch West said in the release. “She came into camp and earned a contract with her outstanding play. I know she sees this as just a first step, but everyone at Gotham FC is incredibly proud to be part of Sinead’s journey, and excited about all of the great qualities to brings to our team.”