Gotham FC’s first NWSL Championship victory was sweet. The squad engineered a complete turnaround from last season, going from worst to first to put an exclamation point on captain Ali Krieger’s career.

Two other Gotham players also received a fairytale ending to the season: NWSL whistleblowers Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly.

In late 2021, Shim and Farrelly exposed a longstanding culture of sexual coercion under their former head coach Paul Riley. Their stories of abuse led to widespread investigations and sweeping changes across the league, including changes in leadership and a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement.

“I never really imagined that I’d have this full-circle moment and opportunity to go back as a player, and definitely not as a teammate of Sinead’s again,” Shim told The Oregonian. “I think we are both excited and this feels like a gift we are experiencing, being together again.”

Both Shim and Farrelly had retired from soccer after suffering from Riley’s mistreatment with the Portland Thorns and from injuries. But they both returned to play for Gotham together this season — and their joint comeback ended in triumph.

“I think it’s this full-circle moment of reclaiming back what we felt like we lost and the difficulties and things we’ve been through in the past with [Portland] particularly, but also just with this league,” Farrelly told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Before the championship match began, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman weighed in on the importance of Shim and Farrelly’s participation in the game.

“For me, personally, I’m so proud to see Mana and Sinead competing on the pitch tonight. I’m just so proud that we have created an environment that they feel safe and supported,” Berman said.

Along with achieving their dream of winning a title with Gotham FC, Shim and Farrelly were able to make the NWSL a safer place for players in the process.

“It’s just been a dream,” Farrelly told The Inquirer. “I haven’t even had time to process, but it just keeps being the best-case scenario that I could have ever dreamed of — that I didn’t even think was possible. So it’s just incredible.”

Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly will be back in Portland as players Saturday for the first time since their returns to soccer.

Both are now members of NJ/NY Gotham FC, and their return to the sport, together, has been a full-circle moment in in its own right. But this will be their first time returning to Providence Park since they spoke out on alleged abuses they suffered while playing for the Thorns.

That moment in 2021 forever changed the NWSL, for the better. Shim and Farrelly’s account, published in The Athletic, spurred a reckoning throughout the NWSL, leading to widespread abuse investigations, new leadership and and a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement.

Farrelly, who retired in 2016, and Shim, who retired in 2018, returned to play for Gotham FC in 2023. Also, in addition to playing for Gotham, Shim serves as the chairperson of U.S. Soccer’s Participant Safety Taskforce.

“I never really imagined that I’d have this full circle moment and opportunity to go back as a player, and definitely not as a teammate of Sinead’s again,” Shim told The Oregonian. “I think we are both excited and this feels like a gift we are experiencing, being together again.

“I love Portland, and I’ve always loved Portland. It’s a fun thing to go in there and play when you’re not the home team, and I look forward to that, because I haven’t done it yet. Overall, I think it’s just going to be an exciting, full-circle moment.”

For her part, Farrelly has also fallen in love with the game again. And she got to feature for the Republic of Ireland this year for the first time, including at her first World Cup.

Admittedly, Farrelly is glad the game is coming at the time it has, because it would have been “a lot to handle” earlier in the season. Now, she’s excited to go back. Both Shim and Farrelly say they feel supported by their Gotham teammates, and that means everything.

“To have that safety has been really important for me personally,” Farrelly said. “Just being back in this culture. There have been times in my career where it’s been really difficult, and Mana gets it.

“We have that comfort level but we have also just been having so much fun, reminding each other what a gift and a privilege it is that we get to training together and play soccer every day. That has been really healing, finding the joy in playing the game again and being on a team again.”

Both are thankful for the Thorns’ fanbase, which has been supportive of the two players since day one. And, at the end of the day, while a win on Saturday is important – as it would put Gotham ahead of Portland in the league standings – there’s also one important thing still left to do in Portland.

“I feel like we’ve done a lot of work and there is so much to be celebrated,” Shim said, then paused. “Our priorities are pretty obvious, but at the end of the day, like, sell the Thorns. We’re not there yet. There’s still one piece of the thing. I’m really grateful for all the progress we’ve made, but we’re still following along. Our work isn’t over, and when we’re done playing our work won’t be over. It’s something that we always have to remember.”

Alex Morgan joined fellow U.S. women’s national team stars Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath in speaking out against Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales amid the growing World Cup controversy.

In the midst of Spain’s celebration of its World Cup victory on Aug. 20, Rubiales grabbed star midfielder Jenni Hermoso’s face and kissed her. The public outcry over the unsolicited gesture has swelled in the days following Spain’s victory, but Rubiales refused to resign in a defiant speech he delivered Friday to the Spanish federation (RFEF).

Morgan described herself as “disgusted” by the RFEF president’s actions. She also threw her support behind Hermoso and her teammates, who are insisting upon leadership changes within the Spanish federation before they return to the national team.

“I stand by Jenni Hermoso and the Spanish players,” she wrote in a social media post. Winning a World Cup should be one of the best moments in these players’ lives but instead it’s overshadowed by assault, misogyny, and failures by the Spanish federation.”

Morgan’s words echoed those of her fellow USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe, who condemned Rubiales in an interview with The Atlantic on Monday.

“What kind of upside-down world are we in? On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy,” Rapinoe said, noting that Rubiales’ actions signaled “such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man.”

Tobin Heath, who won the 2019 World Cup with Morgan and Rapinoe but missed the 2023 tournament due to injury, also voiced her displeasure with the Spanish federation. In doing so, she joined not just her U.S. teammates but a number of international stars in the chorus of players reacting to the controversy.

“The global stage yet again exposing global issues,” she wrote. “These players and this team have repeatedly spoken up for years! Where are the changes? Toxicity is at the core of (the Spanish federation). A federation that proudly displays patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny.”

Christen Press, who also missed the 2023 tournament due to injury, had spoken about Spain’s issues heading into the World Cup semifinals. Even before Rubiales’ kiss of Hermoso, the federation was embroiled in a longstanding dispute with its players over the national team environment.

“I think that the hope is that the more success the team has, the bigger voice and the more respect that they get from their country,” Press said at the time — a statement that has proved portentous, though not in the way she would have expected.

One month after making her NWSL return, Mana Shim is back scoring goals.

The 31-year-old midfielder scored her first NWSL goal since 2015 on Wednesday. She provided the lone strike for Gotham FC in their 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride, scoring in the 91st minute off an assist from Midge Purce.

Shim helped spur investigations into coaching abuse across the NWSL as one of two players who detailed allegations of abuse against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley in a report published by The Athletic in 2021. She joined Gotham FC for the 2023 season after a five-year hiatus from the league.

With the draw, Gotham FC fell just short of a place in the Challenge Cup semifinals, but Shim still could appreciate her accomplishment.

“I mean this is bittersweet, and I couldn’t even celebrate because I was like, ‘We have to win this game,’” she said afterward. “And now that I have some time to reflect on it, obviously, it’s amazing. And I’m just so grateful that they trusted me to even be in the position to be on the field at that time.”

She called Gotham “the best group I’ve ever worked with” in her television interview postgame. She plays with her former Thorns teammate and fellow whistleblower Sinead Farrelly on the New Jersey-based club.

“I’m just enjoying it so much,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be with the group and I just feel honored to be a part of it.”

While she has played in just four matches since signing with the club in June, she has made her minutes count.

“We knew that Mana could help us,” Gotham head coach Juan Carlos Amorós said postgame. “And again, maybe a new position for her arriving late from left back, [but] very happy for her to get that goal.”