Savannah McCaskill’s halftime substitution in the 2019 NWSL Championship marked the end of a transitional year for the forward. Traded from Sky Blue FC in June 2019, McCaskill reflected that while she had some growing pains, there were positives to take away from her debut stint in the Windy City.
“Obviously, being traded halfway through the season, it was difficult to find my way into the team,” McCaskill said. “From where I started when I got to Chicago to where I ended up, I think that I was building game by game, getting better, finding how I could help the team. I still didn’t have the productivity that I would have wanted.”
Following the Red Stars defeat in the NWSL Championship at the hands of the North Carolina Courage, McCaskill got to work not only on the field, but off it as well.
“My number one priority was I wanted to become a 90-minute player again,” McCaskill said. “After I spent time with the national team, I didn’t really focus on that as much, and it showed. I wanted to get back to that. Being able to get box to box for 90 minutes was kind of my goal, so that I could be in around the eighteen to be able to score goals but also, at the same time, I could be solid defensively.”
McCaskill fully reaped the rewards of her offseason labors this summer, starring for the Red Stars on their way to their second consecutive league final. Featuring in all seven games for Chicago and tallying a goal with two assists, McCaskill said one game in particular showed that her hard work had paid off.
“It really showed for me in that Portland game,” she said. “Being able to put in a solid performance throughout ninety-five minutes really solidified all the work that I did this offseason. Even moving forward, I was able to play as a 10 – scoring a goal, creating an assist in the knockout rounds. It was a little bit of a reward. Obviously, we didn’t win the tournament, and that’s disappointing, but it’s something to build off of.”
Not only did McCaskill’s constant, box-to-box pressing and passing creativity show off her offseason work, but she was given the captain’s armband in Chicago’s second preliminary match in that very same game against the Thorns. For McCaskill, it was an honor.
“It was huge, I didn’t know I was going to be the captain until I got to the locker room,” McCaskill said. “It was a bit of an exciting surprise. Anytime I get to wear a captain’s armband and represent a team and city, especially Chicago, is an honor. It was an honor to be able to bring some of our younger players along and help us get a point. This team is full of amazing people and players, and the city of Chicago is something I really love to represent.”
McCaskill’s summer renaissance comes with a shift of position from where fans have seen her in recent years. A striker in college and playing across the front attacking line for most of her first two seasons, McCaskill spent her time in Utah as a creative number 10. Even with limited experience there in the NWSL, McCaskill says her club and college experience prepared her well for this role.
“I’ve never been your typical number nine,” McCaskill said. “I like to pop off the back line, get balls in between the six and the centerbacks, and create from there. Whatever position I’m put in, I want to be able to find my space and, as a 10, it’s a bit easier for me to do that. It was definitely fun. I think I showed well in the Challenge Cup as a 10, and that’s what I see going forward.”
With the start of the Red Stars camping in the NWSL Fall Series on the horizon, McCaskill hopes to continue her summer run of form. Upon arriving in Chicago, McCaskill said she wanted to win a title and get back to the U.S. women’s national team and is as motivated as ever to achieve the former.
“As a team, we didn’t play our best in that final, and I personally didn’t play my best,” McCaskill said. “We’ve talked a lot about not letting moments pass us by. The final in the Challenge Cup was disappointing – it wasn’t our day. But, at the same time, we want to make the final again and have a different result. Everyone’s mindset is to get back to that, and when we are in those moments to not let it pass us by and not let the game be bigger than us.”
Last featuring for the United States in 2018, McCaskill is hoping her 2020 renaissance will catch the eye of new head coach Vlatko Adonovski. When it concerns her second goal in the Windy City, she thinks she may be closer than ever.
“Personally, I’m back to playing some of my best soccer. I’m able to express myself more on the field and my fitness level, at the moment, is better than it was when I was on the national team. I’ve come a long way, and Rory [Dames] has been really adamant about continuing my progress and not letting me become complacent again. I think that’s definitely helped in training, and then just when I’m by myself, I’m making good decisions and making sure that I’m doing everything that I can to get myself back to the national team.”