If it’s October, it must be Australia for Savannah McCaskill
Savannah McCaskill couldn’t have known her first year as a professional soccer player would take her so far afield from her college days at the University of South Carolina.
McCaskill was chosen second overall in this year’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft, sending her to the Boston Breakers, a team that folded in late January when a potential new ownership deal fell through.
She was then taken in the first round of a dispersal draft that saw her signed by the New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC, a team which finished last in the nine-team league with just one win as McCaskill hopscotched across America with the club for 24 matches.
In between, she played six matches for the U.S. national team.
So just when the 22-year-old forward thought she might have a bit of a break, she received a phone call from her agent which changed any plans she had made for the off-season.
“I had been talking to a few people, and they mentioned the W-League in Australia, and I thought, ‘yeah that would be a great opportunity,’ but nothing really transpired,” McCaskill said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I thought it wasn’t going to work out, so I went home to South Carolina (her hometown of Chapin). But then I got a call two weeks ago from Sydney saying they were interested. It was a quick turnaround from that point, 48 hours.”
The Sydney team’s nickname? The Sky Blues, not a huge variation from her Sky Blue FC, and a uniform color that she’s obviously going to get used to wearing while she’s on loan for the Australian season that ends in early February.
McCaskill had an impressive first appearance for Sydney FC, setting up a 13th-minute goal in her team’s season-opening 3-0 win last week over crosstown rival Western Sydney.
Sydney FC tweeted its description of the goal just to reinforce McCaskill’s impact on the game.
Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric said his club, picked by many to win the league title, has been lucky enough to acquire one of the signings of the season.
“Savannah is a fantastic talent ... she has had an incredible first season playing in the NWSL and I have no doubt she will have a major impact for us and quickly become a fan favorite,” Juric said. “She will add to our team’s attacking mentality perfectly.”
It wasn’t an easy season with her Sky Blue FC team in New Jersey. There were several reports of unhappiness with the team’s housing arrangements and lack of proper training facilities, highlighted by comments from Australian international Sam Kerr after her hat trick for the Sky Blue over Kansas City on July 7.
“I’m just going to say the girls deserve better and I’m just going to leave it at that,” Kerr said.
On Tuesday, McCaskill agreed it was a tough grind.
“For sure, we definitely didn’t have the season anyone would have hoped for,” she said. “Obviously with a season like that there a lot of challenges, a lot more lows than highs, but you learn from those experiences.”
She said her early memories in Australia have been “super nice, pretty smooth.” Based in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Concord, she took the train into the city last weekend to walk around Circular Quay and see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The W-League doesn’t have much of a break through Christmas, meaning a trip home to the U.S. for the holidays won’t happen. Instead, McCaskill, an only child, will look forward to the arrival of her mother and father, Tina and Greg, from South Carolina.
McCaskill figures she and her parents will be able to handle the southern hemisphere late December summer temperatures of between 30 and 40 Celsius (90 to 100 Fahrenheit).
“Being from South Carolina, we don’t get white Christmases anyway,” McCaskill said.