Sinead Farrelly joins NWSL's Gotham after 8-year absence following abuse allegations

Sinead Farrelly, whose allegations against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley sparked investigations that found widespread sexual abuse and misconduct in the NWSL, signed a one-year contract with Gotham FC for the 2023 season on Saturday.

Farrelly, 33, has not played in the league for almost eight years since retiring in 2016 following two seasons with the Thorns.

Farrelly's public accusations in 2021 of sexual coercion and harassment against Riley, along with similar allegations from former teammate Mana Shim, led to an independent investigation from the U.S. Soccer Federation and a joint NWSL and NWSL Players Association investigation into abuse in the league.

Riley was one of four coaches who were subsequently given lifetime bans from the NWSL.

"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 after signing with Gotham.

Farrelly, who had spent preseason training with Gotham as a non-roster invitee, has three goals and two assists in 52 NWSL appearances for the Thorns and Kansas City. She also previously appeared for the U-17, U-20 and U-23 United States national teams.

"I can't even imagine doing this with another club except Gotham FC," the midfielder added. "My teammates, the coaches and the staff are amazing. The environment has been professional and so enjoyable. I'm beyond excited for this season with this team. We have such a unified and passionate group and we're ready to put on a show and win.

"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."

Gotham, which finished in last place in the standings a year ago, begins its 2023 season at Angel City on Sunday.

"Sinead is not only an outstanding athlete, but one of the most admired people in our sport," said Gotham FC general manager and head of soccer operations Yael Averbuch West.

"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 she brings to our team."