TORONTO — Kailen Sheridan has been given some big shoes to fill for Canada's women's soccer team.
The 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., will be in goal when Canada hosts South Korea in a friendly at BMO Field on Sunday. Although not her first international cap, she now carries the weight of replacing star 'keeper Stephanie Labbé, who retired from the sport in April.
Labbé earned the nickname of "Canada’s national minister of defence" after her dominant performance that helped lead the squad to its first-ever Olympic gold medal.
“Kailen’s performances — both in her club environment and with us going back to February, in my first camp of 2021 — every training session jumps out as a first-class keeper," head coach Bev Priestman said in a news conference Friday. "That's what she’s done for me to win the No. 1 spot as it stands."
Sheridan, who plays for professional soccer with the NWSL's San Diego Wave FC, has allowed just eight goals in 10 matches this season. She is one of 23 players that were announced to the roster that will not only play in Sunday’s friendly, but will be the only players available for the CONCACAF W Championship set to be played in Mexico in July.
The tournament will serve a qualification for both the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Although Canada announced a 28-player roster for its June international window just 10 days ago, FIFA required the club to announce a 23-player roster for Mexico by Friday. That prompted the club to use intrasquad matches to help in making the final decisions.
Canada’s most decorated soccer player, Christine Sinclair, will return as part of the roster. It’s not clear if the 39-year-old will be healthy enough to play on Sunday after Priestman admitted that forward is dealing with an undisclosed injury and did not take part in Thursday’s intrasquad match.
“Every day we’re ticking boxes to make sure we don’t put Christine at risk for when it really matters, which will be the tournament," Priestman said. "Over the next few days, Christine, and some other players will go through their processes to better understand what their availability is for (South) Korea, but I wouldn’t have selected those 23 if any of those were doubts for when we need them on July 5."
Twenty-five-year-old forward Evelyne Viens was one of the final cuts. The Quebec soccer player played in two matches on the team that won Olympic gold for Canada last year.
Goalkeeper Anna Karpenko, defenders Marie-Yasmine Alidou D'Anjou, Gabrielle Carle and midfielders Marie-Yasmine Alidou D'Anjou and Sarah Stratigakis were also final cuts.
Canada has a record of 7-1-0 against South Korea dating back to 2000, posting a 3-0 win when they most recently met in the final of the Algarve Cup in March 2018.
“They’ll be organized and from what I’ve seen, maybe a bit different shape (tactically) than what we’ve faced regularly,” Priestman said. “They’ve got technicians but they also have no problem being direct."
Canada is ranked No. 6 in FIFA’s latest women’s rankings. South Korea is No. 18.
Goalkeepers: Sabrina D'Angelo (Sweden, Vittsjö GIK); Lysianne Proulx (Unattached); Kailen Sheridan (U.S., San Diego Wave FC).
Defence: Kadeisha Buchanan (England, Chelsea FC); Allysha Chapman (U.S., Houston Dash); Vanessa Gilles (U.S., Angel City FC); Ashley Lawrence (France, Paris Saint-Germain); Jayde Riviere (U.S., AFC Ann Arbour); Bianca St-Georges (U.S., Chicago Red Stars); Shelina Zadorsky (England, Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfield: Zoe Burns (U.S., University of Southern California); Jessie Fleming (Chelsea); Julia Grosso (Italy, Juventus FC); Quinn (U.S., OL Reign); Sophie Schmidt (Houston); Desiree Scott (U.S., Kansas City Current);
Forwards: Janine Beckie (U.S., Portland Thorns FC); Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain); Cloé Lacasse (Portugal, SL Benfica); Adriana Leon (England, West Ham United); Nichelle Prince (Houston); Deanne Rose (England, Reading FC); Christine Sinclair (Portland).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2022.
David Alter, The Canadian Press