Fact: Kailen Sheridan doesn’t play like a rookie goalkeeper.
Watching her play, talking to her, if I didn’t already know this was her first season in the league, I never would have guessed it. The Canadian International is just 21 years old and has 14 games under her but yet she is playing with a confidence that belies her years and stands up on the pitch. Her 53 saves are enough to put her in second in this season’s goalkeeper standings in terms of saves, just three behind Seattle’s Haley Kopmeyer.
As the 23rd pick in the 2017 draft, every team in the league had a shot to take her, but it was Sky Blue that handed her a scarf. Though her success this year might have as much to do with her talent as landing with the right team and having the players around her she does, she came in with considerable experience under her belt. Still, being chosen by Sky Blue offers her the chance to grow, to work with the greatest defender in this nation’s history Christie Pearce, the sophomore defender (and remarkably composed) Erica Skroski, jack-of-all-trades USWNT veteran Kelley O’Hara, and a pair of backline rookies, Mandy Freeman and Kayla Mills.
Sheridan is putting herself not only in the conversation for Rookie of the Year but her play each week is flat-out making a case to consider her for Goalkeeper of the Year as well.
There are few things in the world of soccer that are better than a goalkeeper who can make a little magic happen between the pipes, but one of them is getting to interview someone who’s been making as much magic as Sheridan.
Backline Soccer (BS): So, Canadian goalkeepers. Best goalkeeping crew in the world, I’ve been saying this for about eight weeks straight on our podcast (The Scouting Report), so I figured if I’m here, I have to bring it up. Is it something in the water up there? You guys just born with tattoos and goalkeeping superpowers in the great white north now?
Kailen Sheridan: Yeah, obviously. [Laughs] No, I mean we definitely have some good programs. We’re all from different areas. I think we’re kind of a good group because there’s an ability to push each other, but we’re also really good friends. Like they’re somebody that I hang out with. Steph was just down in Jersey the other day and I went and saw her. We hung out at the beach. It’s a level of confidence but it’s also like a level of friendship that you can know that you’re gunning for each other’s spot but at the same time, I’m gonna go and hang out with you later.
BS: That seems to be something that not every country has had historically.
BS: Goalkeepers especially tend to–
Sheridan: It’s a competitive position. There’s only one of us that can ever play. You don’t get subbed very often, and you kind of own that spot once you get it. So, it’s more of, let’s hold onto it or you’ve gotta work to earn it.
BS: How would you feel your rookie season’s going? You know, you’re halfway through it, feel good?
Sheridan: Yeah, it’s been great. I really enjoy being at Sky Blue. I’m really happy and lucky to have been chosen to come here and earn the spot that I have. And I think that it’s been a good start and I think we have a lot more to go. And there’s definitely a lot of ground that we have to make up. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, but at the same time, they’re mistakes that we all know that we can fix. So I think that the beginning’s been great but I’m looking more forward to the end of the season.
BS: There was a rumor, that I’m sure you will confirm, that you yelled at Christie Pearce to do what a centerback should do during a game, and people were very amused about that. Is that something that, as a rookie, you’re becoming more confident, you’re directing more?
Sheridan: Definitely. Christie is such an amazing person though, that she kind of calls it upon us to call her out on those things. She’s definitely going to be there for us and call us all out because that’s her job. She has the experience and the mindset to be able to do that, but if we can call her out and make her the better player, then she’s the first person to be like “thanks for calling me out, I appreciate that,” you know? She’s a very humble person, and that’s somebody that’s just the best kind of person to work with. I’m lucky she’s allowing me to help her as she’s helping me.
BS: Your national team coach has said some things about you guys being number 1 one day. Is that something that you really do think about, that one day you want to sort of knock– I mean you’d have to get through France, and Germany, and the US, which is doable with how the US has been lately–is that something that you think about? Or is it just sort of play the game and the points will be what the points are?
Sheridan: No, definitely that’s something we’re all working towards. I think as a national team, that each of us has that in our mind at all times, that number 1 is where we’re going. Number 1 is where we want to be, and anything below that is not good enough. So as we’re all in our home environments here, it’s always something that’s in the back of our mind. That’s what we’re training for ultimately. You know, NWSL is really important but at the same time, once this is over, we go right into camp and we start gunning for that number 1 spot again.
BS: Is that something that’s nice? You’re not in your home country, but if they do have a camp you’re not traveling to France or Germany or wherever?
Sheridan: Yeah, it’s definitely helpful. It definitely helps with the travel period because sometimes we do have to go to Europe so that’s hard. But it does allow us an availability to do national staff as well, being able to contact them so easily, and go home when we want to go home, and being able to get into camp when it’s time to go.
BS: One final question. You have Christine Sinclair as your country captain and Christie Pearce as your club. Did you win the lotto?
Sheridan: I definitely did there. I got two amazing role models. Very different personalities, very different people, and very different strengths. I think that I’m lucky because I get the difference in the two of them and I have both of them as outlets. I learn a lot from each of them. I mean Christie day-to-day, and Sinc every time I go into camp. And you know she’s still there every time I play Portland, she’s got something to say to me. So that’s always fun. But I did hit the lottery in a way.