A rainy day in Atlanta was the setting for the USA vs. Netherlands women’s soccer friendly on September 18, 2016. A 22-year-old defender stands at the halfway line in the 46th minute waiting to enter the game. Countless friends and family members watch eagerly as the girl they watched play and grow up at dozens of metro-Atlanta soccer parks take the stage for her first professional game in her home state. Marietta native Emily Sonnett spent her youth soccer career playing for the North Atlanta Soccer Association (NASA) and played varsity high school at Fellowship Christian Academy. Little did she know then, one day all the hard work would pay off as she would take the field inside the Georgia Dome earning her 12th cap for the United States Women’s National Team.
Sonnett’s accomplishments are already too long to list, earning a multitude of honors while playing for the women’s team at the University of Virginia. In 2015, she captained the Cavaliers and was named the espnW National Player of the Year, First-Team NSCAA All-American, and ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. On January 15, she was selected by the Portland Thorns as the first overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. At this time, she had already traveled with the USWNT on the Victory Tour following their gold medal at the World Cup. She earned her first cap on October 25, 2015 against Brazil.
In her post-game interview, Sonnett was all smiles after securing the 3-1 win against the Netherlands. She entered as a sub for Julie Johnston, playing almost an entire half in front of her parents, sister, and numerous high school friends in the crowd. After the game, she expressed her excitement to play her first professional game in front of a home crowd in her home state.
“It was awesome being able to come back especially with the US team and have a my first professional game in the state of Georgia. There are no words for it, it is just very exciting.”
Iggy Moleka, Director of United Futbol Academy and former Super Y coach of Sonnett, has watched her play for over ten years. When asked what he attributes her success to, he explained, “Her way to approach the game, her maturity of the game, even at a young age has been what made her different. She’s so competitive, she has such a competitive edge.”
Throughout the years Moleka not only coached her in the Super Y league, but also coached against her as her club rival Atlanta Soccer Academy (ASA now known as UFA). The two teams met in the finals of every State Cup from U-12 to U-18. In the beginning of our interview, he dove into a story about the first time he coached against Sonnett and NASA (Metro North at the time). “I will never forget that game. We were up 1-0 at half, and ended up losing 12-1. After that, I knew that not only they were a special team, but she was a special player.”
Moleka was asked if he thought Sonnett would make it to the level of success she has reached today. He simply answered, “I am not surprised. I am not surprised at all. It was clear Emily was going to play at the next level.”
Currently, Sonnett is living in Portland, Oregon playing professionally in the NWSL for the Portland Thorns. On September 25 they clinched the NWSL Shield by beating Sky Blue FC 3-1 in New Jersey.
Dirty South Soccer caught up with Sonnett and asked a few questions ranging from her pregame ritual to her what it is like playing under Jill Ellis and next to the likes of Alex Morgan.
Kacey: What is your favorite thing to do in Portland when you are not playing soccer?
Emily: This is going to sound so cliché but me and Lindsey Horan go and literally find all the good coffee places. When we have a day off I usually try to go and see a little bit more of Portland, but yeah usually I would say, it comes to us trying to find the best coffee. Because we love coffee, so much.
K: Is there anything you miss about living in Atlanta?
E: I miss my family coming to games, they have only come out to one game, but they come to a bunch of national team stuff. But nothing super specific.
K: You got to go to the Rio Olympics a few months ago? How was that experience?
E: It was definitely awesome to be apart of the 22-woman roster. It’s a little bit of a different experience, I’m a role-player, I’m an encourager, I’m the one who’s happy when everyone else isn’t happy, ya know? So I would say in terms of that, just the other players that are there and being a part of a major tournament, was the best experience I could have gotten. Overall, Brazil was super fun; glad I could go and experience another culture and another country, it was pretty awesome.
K: What is it like playing under Jill Ellis and next to big names like Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan?
E: I’ve said this before, but just having a surreal coaching staff, and being able to work with them month in and month out depending what the camps are. Being able to play with some of the best women in the world is the best thing hands-down for my development. People say this all the time but it is an honor to play under Jill and to play with some of these women, even at a young age coming out of college, being able to get a taste of that is great for my development.
K: What is your best soccer memory?
E: Final Four 2013 my sophomore year of college.
K: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
E: I eat banana pancakes.
K: Do you have a soccer idol or role model?
E: Becky Sauerbrunn
K: If you weren’t a soccer player what would be your dream job?
E: Food Critic
K: What is your favorite TV-show to binge watch?
K: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
E: Speed-reading, because with all my extra time without school I read a lot of books, I just want to read faster. That makes me sound smart right?