Sky Blue’s Killion Hopes to Impress at USWNT Camp

Photo: Robyn McNeil, Sky Blue FC

by TOM SLATER

Although Sarah Killion is getting ready for only her third national team camp — and still searching for her first cap — she knows the pecking order.

SkyBlue’s Killion, 24, has lot of tools at the ready — superb technical skills, outstanding field vision and poise under pressure — but she’s also a realist. She knows there is no sure thing on the international level.

Even when you’re thisclose.

Killion entered camp with the senior team Monday as the Americans get ready to host their second SheBelieves Cup, which begins with a doubleheader in Chester, Pa., on March 1. She is one of 25 players called in by Coach Jill Ellis, who is sorting out a roster in transition as the United States looks to regroup as it prepares to qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The camp will be her second in two months for Killion. She went to California as a late addition to the 30-player roster and spent 10 days working with the likes of Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Becky Sauerbrunn. The call-up ended nearly a three-year drought. The Indiana native was called into the senior camp in 2014 while the United States was preparing for the Algarve Cup.

“It’s been a while,” Killion said in between personal training last week. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years. [After the January camp] She [Coach Ellis] gave it to me straight and it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’m there for a reason. There’s areas in my game that need improvement and I’m totally in agreement with that. It was a positive meeting but there were multiple things I took away that I wrote down that if I want to be on this level, I need to get better here, here and here. She helped me out by putting everything into perspective for me. It made me feel that being on the team is not totally out of reach but that I still have a lot of work to do. And that’s how it should be. You’re never done growing or learning on or off the field.”

A month ago, the former No. 2 pick in the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League college draft out of the UCLA saw action as she termed it with “with the second and third team.” She was paired in the midfield most often with Kristen Edmunds of the Orlando Pride and sometimes with Lindsey Horan, a young midfielder playing with Portland.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “I was obviously there to be seen but I was there to help the team get ready for three huge games coming up [in the SheBelieves tournament]. Whatever I could do to be a part of that is exactly what I was there for.”

Before 2014, Killion had made annual progressions on the appropriate youth national teams. She was a starting player for United States U20 women’s national team that won the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in 2012 in Japan where she was the starting central midfielder. Teammates included Morgan Brian, Crystal Dunn, Julie Johnston and Samantha Mewis — all members of the current national team pool.

Killion also played for the U.S. U23 team at the 2013 Four Nations tournament before getting the February 2014 camp call-up with the senior team. That came during a storied UCLA career where she led the Bruins to their first College Cup title in 2014 and was named a third team All-America.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to make that final jump[(to the senior national team],” Killion said. “There are so many talented players out there.”

One place Killion does have a spot is with Sky Blue. She’s entering her third year with the team and is already a veteran, playing with last year’s rookies Raquel Rodriguez and Leah Galton to either side of her and Erica Skroski.

Sky Blue bolstered its youth movement with the top draft picks Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman, who are certain to see playing time after stellar careers at USC. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, now with the Canada’s national team, figures to battle with Casey for the starting job in goal.

“It’s kind of weird to think I’m one of the veterans but I guess it’s true,” Killion said. “Christy Holly did a tremendous job in last year’s draft and obviously did a great job this year as well. I know he always looks at the kind of person you are off the field as well as on the field. And it makes a huge difference in team morale and team chemistry. I think we struggled for a while getting everybody together who should be on the field. When we have the 11 plus the players coming off the bench, we can be a dangerous team. I wholeheartedly believe that.”

But before she takes the field with Sky Blue there’s the national team camp this week, with the goal of making the SheBelieves roster and playing outside Philadelphia on March 1, in Harrison, N.J., on March 4 and in Washington, D.C., on March 7.

“Yes, it’s my goal but right now every day it’s taking things one day at a time,” she said. “That’s just how it is. Every day we wake up and you know training is going to be hard and it’s going to be intense. You have to show up and perform. Making the team is in the back of my mind but every day is a challenge and I’m just happy to be there and prove that deserve a chance to move forward.”