Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan has a new NWSL club and a new role with Canada.
Now with the expansion San Diego Wave FC, the 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., is also the new Canadian No. 1 with the recent retirement of Stephanie Labbé.
So far, so good for Sheridan and Canada at the Arnold Clark Cup in England. The Canadian women (1-0-1) wrap up play Wednesday against No. 9 Spain (0-0-2) at Wolverhampton's Molineux Stadium.
Sheridan has given up just one goal in two games at the four-team tournament. The clean sheet in Sunday's 1-0 win over No. 3 Germany represented her ninth shutout in 18 appearances for sixth-ranked Canada.
The 35-year-old Labbé, who won 85 caps for Canada, has said she is leaving the team in safe hands. Sheridan is equally complimentary towards the former No. 1.
"We're going to miss her," Sheridan said of Labbé, whom she called an "incredible teammate."
"Those are going to be massive, massive shoes (to fill)," she added. "It will take some time, for sure. But I think we will build another GK (goalkeeper) union and grow with the new players that will come in."
Sabrina D’Angelo has been backing Sheridan up at the Arnold Clark Cup. Veteran Erin McLeod, Devon Kerr and under-20 'keeper Anna Karpenko wait in the wings. Liverpool's Rylee Foster is currently recovering from a car accident.
Canada coach Bev Priestman has cited Sheridan's "top-class" shot-stopping ability, but says she is still learning.
"Where she is growing is dealing with that pressure of being No. 1 or that label being put on her … But that's going to come," she said. "That's why playing top teams now, rather than when it really matters, and giving her that exposure now is really really important. I think that's the bigger picture."
NJ/NY Gotham FC traded Sheridan's rights to San Diego in December in exchange for US$130,000 in allocation money plus protection in the upcoming NWSL expansion draft.
Sheridan spent five seasons with Gotham, formerly known as Sky Blue FC, after being taken 23rd overall in the 2017 NWSL draft out of Clemson University. She was voted 2020 Challenge Cup Golden Glove winner and most recently was named to the 2021 NWSL Best XI.
Sheridan made 91 appearances for Gotham across all competitions. With her Gotham contract expired at the end of the 2021 season, Sheridan was able to look to the future.
"I definitely needed to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and have a new challenge," she said. "I was excited for a new change of scenery. Working with a brand new team and a brand new coach will definitely do that for you.
"Working in one of the best cities in the country, if not the world, will be also exciting for me."
She will be playing behind the likes of Alex Morgan, Jodie Taylor, Sofia Jakobsson and Abby Dahlkemper in San Diego, with Casey Stoney as coach. England international 'keeper Carly Telford has joined from Chelsea.
Telford, 34, has been on three England World Cup rosters (2007, 2015 and 2019) and represented Britain at the Tokyo Olympics where Canada won gold. She doubled as a part-time coach with Chelsea, working with the Blues under-16 and under-18 goalkeepers.
"Carly, to me, is one of the best goalkeepers in the world … I can't wait, honestly, to learn from her and to grow beside here," said Sheridan.
"She also has a really big reputation as being a great teammate," she added. "So I'm really excited to work alongside of her. I know she'll push me and it will definitely be competitive. But I will also be striving for the No. 1 (job) and making sure I achieve that in my goals."
San Diego, whose president is former U.S. national team coach Jill Ellis, will open play at its temporary home of Torero Stadium. The team is owned by billionaire Ron Burkle.
Sheridan welcomes the chance to work with Stoney, who won 130 caps playing for England before moving into coaching.
"Honestly at the end of the day though, it was a really hard decision because I do love the people at Gotham and the environment. We've gone through a lot of challenges and I've grown with them and we've come out the other side better."
But bottom line "the opportunity that San Diego presented me with was better than the opportunity Gotham presented me with."
San Diego is gearing up for the March 18 start of the third annual NWSL Challenge Cup, which will be followed by a 22-game regular season.
Sheridan, who has found a home near the beach, is already liking what she sees on the California coast.
"It is gorgeous," she said. "Even just the two weeks that I've moved there, I'm pretty in love with the city."
Sheridan's 2021 was a whirlwind, full of ups and downs.
"It all happened so fast. but it also feels like 10 years ago already," she said. "It's just such an emotional roller-coaster, the entire year, I think we all felt that."
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 defender Vanessa 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.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press