Canadian women’s soccer team aiming to be best in the world

Canada-goalkeeper-Kailen

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan in action for Canada's under-20 team. (Jason Franson/CP)

While Kailen Sheridan is technically a rookie in the National Women’s Soccer League, she’s played like a seasoned veteran.

The goalkeeper from Whitby, Ont., was selected 23rd overall by New Jersey-based club Sky Blue in the 2017 NWSL College Draft back in January. Since then, she’s started every game for Sky Blue, making 60 saves and earning two clean sheets. The Canadian is a major reason why her team is within striking distance of a post-season berth.

Sportsnet recently had a chance to catch up with the 22-year-old about her rookie year and what the future holds for her with Canada’s national team.

Tell us about the jump from college soccer, where you played for Clemson, straight into the professional game.
It was definitely a step up. College is one level, but professional is another. Some people can make it up there and some people don’t. It’s definitely a challenge. If you want to do it, you have to have your whole heart into it in order to make it happen. But, it’s something I love. I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity. I’m going to make the best out of whatever is in front of me.

It’s also quite a feat that you’re the starting goalkeeper in your first season in the National Women’s Soccer League. How did getting that number one spot with Sky Blue come to fruition?
When I got here, I had a conversation with the coaches, the goalkeeper coaches, about how I have to earn it and it’s not going to be given to me, but that there’s a chance there. I wanted to take that chance, so I worked my ass off in practices to show them what I have. They know what I did in college, but this is a different level like we talked about earlier. I just wanted to have an impact for this team.

In my end of pre-season meeting, they told me they were impressed with my performance and that I could be an asset. They told me that it was now my position to lose. I had to perform every week and make the best of it.

When you think back to some of your first matches, was there ever a “whoa” moment when someone like Christine Sinclair or Christen Press was barreling down on you to try and score a goal?
[laughs] Oh yeah! It’s definitely an intense situation, but my team gave me that confidence that I had the ability to take on no matter who we were playing. They let me know they trusted me back there and that’s a big thing coming from your team — making sure that they’re confident in you.

On the national team, it’s been a whirlwind for you with the Rio Olympics and getting minutes with the senior squad. How do you see your career going forward with Canada?
I do think I have things to improve on to be the best for Canada. There’s great competition; we have some of the best goalkeepers in the world. I think that allows me to push myself and not be complacent. I know I’ve had some compliments from this league and the way I’m playing, but we’re not good enough yet. Canada wants to be number one in the world. That’s it. That’s the whole thing for Canada: we want to be number one. There’s nothing underneath that. If I want to go to number one with them, contributing to their success, I need to be number one in my field.

And you’ve got Stephanie Labbe (Washington) and Sabrina D’Angelo (North Carolina) with you in the NWSL. What’s the relationship like with you as a trio?
We have a fantastic relationship. We’re all pretty good friends. When I went to Washington to play Steph, we went out for coffee and had a great conversation. I’m the same with Sabrina. It’s a very good relationship. I feel like a lot of people expect it to be competitive on and off, and it is competitive, but at the same time, all three of us want to be at number one. That’s something John [Herdman] has instilled in us. On the field, off the field, it doesn’t matter because you’re on the team. It’s whoever is the best that day to get us to number one and if you want to be a part of that, you’re more than welcome to. If you’re competing because you want to be by yourself somewhere, you’re in the wrong sport.

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