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HomeSportsSoccerKailen Sheridan the latest in long line of Canadian goalkeeping excellence

Kailen Sheridan the latest in long line of Canadian goalkeeping excellence

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Canada has a proud record of goalkeeping excellence, from Karina LeBlanc, Erin McLeod and Stephanie Labbé to Craig Forrest, Pat Onstad, Paul Dolan and Milan Borjan.

Kailen Sheridan continues the Canadian tradition of safe hands.

The 27-year-old from Whitby, Ont., who plays her club football for the NWSL’s San Diego Wave, is Canada’s undisputed No. 1 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“A great teammate [and] obviously a world-class goalkeeper,” said captain Christine Sinclair.

“I’ve heard [San Diego] coach Casey Stoney talk about her being the best goalkeeper in the world. I wouldn’t disagree,” added Canada coach Bev Priestman.

WATCH | Soccer North goes 1-on-1 with Bev Priestman:

1-on-1 with CanWNT head coach Bev Priestman ahead of FIFA Women’s World Cup

Host Andi Petrillo sits down with Canadian women’s national team head coach Bev Priestman, with less than a week away to the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Sheridan has played in 22 of Canada’s 25 matches since the Tokyo Olympics, the last tournament Labbé played in before announcing her retirement. On Friday she played the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 tie with fourth-ranked England, a closed-door training match that was the seventh-ranked Canadians’ final World Cup warmup.

But Sheridan had to bide her time.

“As Canadians, we are spoiled in the talented pool of goalkeepers that we’re able to produce and Kailen’s waited a long time for this opportunity to really show the world on this stage what she’s capable of,” said Sinclair. “I can’t wait for what she’s going to do this summer.”

Long journey to starting job

Heading into Canada’s tournament opener against Nigeria in Melbourne on July 20, Sheridan has won 35 caps with 30 starts and 17 clean sheets.

Sheridan was 20 when she made her senior debut for Canada in a 1-0 win over Iceland at the Algarve Cup in March 2016, her only appearance for the national team that year.

She then saw action in three games in 2017, two in 2018, one in 2019 and two in 2020 before playing seven in 2021, 15 in 2022 and four so far this year. Labbé announced her retirement in January 2022, two days after finishing runner-up to Chile’s Christiane Endler for The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award.

Labbé won 85 caps for Canada with 43 shutouts.

“Kailen was neck-and-neck with Steph [Labbé] right into the [Tokyo] Olympics,” said Priestman. “Steph got the No. 1 spot but I do think that experience is what grows you.”

“I think Kailen just needs to be confident, calm and collected going into this tournament. At the end of the day she just needs to go and do what she does and stick to who she is as a goalkeeper,” she added. “And she’ll do great for us, like she has.”

WATCH | Breaking down Canada’s World Cup path:

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Sheridan is a positive influence on the team, says Sinclair.

“[She] never seems to be stressed. And as a goalkeeper, wow, that’s impressive just because of the role they have on the team,” she added. “And off the field, [she] just brings this energy. I’m not going to say goofy, but just lighthearted,” she added.

“She’s very calming. She’s very positive,” added Canadian defender Vanessa Gilles. “She’s just an overall incredible human being.”

‘I want to be the best that I can be’

Sheridan has also had to overcome injury adversity.

Handed the start against the top-ranked U.S. at the SheBelieves Cup in February 2021, Sheridan went down in the seventh minute — the victim of a freak injury making an innocuous-looking pass to Gilles.

An MRI later revealed that she had torn one of her quad muscles off the bone with about a four-centimetre retraction. Sheridan underwent surgery March 1 to repair her right quad. She made it back in time for the Olympics.

Sheridan also backed up Labbé four years ago at the World Cup in France. This time around, she is the starter with Sabrina D’Angelo and the uncapped Lysianne Proulx waiting in the wings.

“There’s definitely a clear understanding for me and a clear path for me,” said Sheridan. “But regardless of what position I go into with the team, I’m always going to compete and always going to put into my mind ‘I’m going to earn it, I’m going to prove it and I want to be the best that I can be.’

That doesn’t change now she’s No. 1.

“I want to go in there and I want to compete and I want to push everybody around me. And I want them to push me right back,” she said. “I think that’s what we’ve been so successful in the Canadian goalkeeping group that we’ve had ?Ǫ We push each other all the time.”

NWSL top goalie

The NWSL knows all about Sheridan’s talent, naming her Goalkeeper of the Year in 2022 when she posted an 0.95 goals-against average with eight clean sheets in 18 matches while saving three of four penalty-kick attempts.

Sheridan, the first Canadian to win an NWSL major individual award, was also named to the NWSL Best XI for the second year in a row. This season she has five shutouts and a 1.15 goals-against average in 13 games for the Wave.

In July 2022, she won the Best Goalkeeper Award at the CONCACAF W Championship in helping Canada qualify for the World Cup.

Sheridan spent five seasons with NJ/NY Gotham FC, formerly known as Sky Blue FC, after being taken 23rd overall in the 2017 NWSL draft out of Clemson University. She made 91 appearances for Gotham across all competitions but, with her contract expiring, was traded to expansion San Diego in December 2021

“It’s been pretty nice,” she said of life in California. “I’m enjoying it. It’s a great city to live in.”

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