Portland Thorns midfielder Sinead Farrelly was in the crowd to root for past teammates in yesterday’s NWSL Championship despite being just a week removed from a 2-0 semifinal loss she couldn’t play in.
In her NWSL career she’s been on the losing side of two consecutive semifinals. Farrelly lost to Portland as a member of Kansas City last season and now lost to her former club as member of the Thorns, a fact she doesn’t dwell too much.
She’s just glad to feel back to normal again.
“I don’t feel any tension towards my old club so I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the fact that it was FC Kansas City who knocked us out,” Farrelly said. “I was just upset that we had lost in general. FCKC is a great team and I’m still close with many of their girls so I was happy for them.”
During the NWSL’s heavily contested playoff race Farrelly missed the final eight games of the season with a head illness, a period she describes as a tough four weeks shrouded with uncertainty.
“It was really hard. It’s always difficult to watch your team play when you feel like you can’t go out and help make a difference,” Farrelly said. “I tried not to get too down about it and controlled what I had the ability to control, which was my attitude.”
The illness, which brought on headaches, dizziness and eye problems is a mystery she still hasn’t been able to solve. During the sickness spell she assumed the role of Portland’s number one fan as she cheered for her teammates from the sidelines.
“I was having issues with my head which kept me out of any physical activity or anything that would increase my symptoms,” Farrelly said. “My symptoms have cleared up though, and we have yet to fully figure out the mystery that was involved. I was able to see a bunch of doctors, and do a lot of physical training and get back to where I can play soccer again which I’m extremely thankful for.”
Paul Riley’s controversial comments after the semifinal loss very much resonated with Farrelly. In a match where turf temperatures reached 159 degrees, it got to the point where players on both clubs were soaking their cleats in ice buckets to stay cool.
“The field and weather situations were awful. I know a lot of people that were very upset with the conditions that day and they have a reason to be mad,” Farrelly said. “An MLS semifinal game would have never been played on that type of turf field at that time of day, it just wouldn’t have happened.”
Farrelly also believes in order to prevent Saturday’s temperature debate from happening there needs to be higher standards for the stadiums and the fields teams are playing on. The field and weather conditions affected the match, regardless of the result.
“Whether we won or we lost, the turf and its temperature played a huge factor in the game for both teams,” Farrelly said. “Leaving players without a say in the conditions they play in isn’t fair and I just hope that we can improve this for next season.”
Known off the pitch for her unique tweets, trendy Star Wars shirts and fashion alike, Farrelly’s proven tactical box-to-box ability was a factor that pushed Riley to give up a second round pick to acquire her just days before the NWSL Draft. The pair have history together from their WPS days where Riley selected Farrelly No. 2 overall in the 2011 WPS draft for the Philadelphia Independence.
While she isn’t in Philadelphia anymore, the Havertown, Pennsylvania native has adopted Portland as her second home a city she loves everything about—even the weather.
Portland began the season without key players Alex Morgan (injury), Tobin Heath (PSG) and Rachel Van Hollebeke (injury) and the breakout play of Jessica McDonald and Allie Long stepped up for the club.
“Jess was great and finished chances for us, we knew we always had her up top and she really brought a goal scoring presence to our entire team,” Farrelly said. “Same with Allie, she was scoring a bunch of goals for us and really led our midfield while some of the other players were away.”
With Morgan back and the key acquisition of Vero Boquete, the club drifted in and out of playoff contention.
The Thorns’ playoff hopes were halted by Goalkeeper of Year Alyssa Naeher and the Boston Breakers who shutout Portland, 2-0, on August 10. As a result of the loss, Portland was forced to wait on the result of the Chicago Red Stars to know its fate.
“It was a really anxious feeling having to rely on other teams’ results to predict our fate but it was the only thing standing in our way at that point, so we had to just wait around and cross our fingers,” Farrelly said. “But it really made us look back and think about games we wish we had capitalized on and helped us realize that we never want to be in that position again.”
With only one game left in the regular season, the Thorns faced a must-win game against rival Seattle. Despite not scoring on the Reign all season, the Thorns enter the match confident in their ability to get the result they needed.
“I think it was the first game where we actually HAD to win. There was no other option and you could really feel that among the players before the game, Farrelly said. Everyone was so determined and so focused on what had to be done, that everything else fell into place.”
After the dire circumstances it took for the Thorns to even make the playoffs, losing only a game away from repeating as champions was heartbreaking.
The weight of losing to her former club still hasn’t hit the 24-year-old. Farrelly entered the match with the belief that the Thorns would win and with her teammates leaving Portland in the coming days the loss will soon affect her emotionally.
“We didn’t feel that positive about our performance as a team, along with the field and weather situation, so it was just a lot of sad and upset emotions,” Farrelly said. “But we’ve got a really great group of girls and we were able to realize that at the end of the day, we tried our best and we made some great memories throughout the entire season.”
It could be said Farrelly arrived in Portland at the right point in her career, the midfielder describes her first season in a Thorns FC uniform as amazing. As someone who has constantly expressed her love for the city she plays in, she also has a message of gratitude for Thorns supporters.
“The only message I would say is thank you to every single one of our fans,” Farrelly said. “I’ve never felt more support and love by fans in my entire life. They make this city the best place to play women’s soccer in the entire world and without them we would be nothing.”