Over the first two matches of this year’s SheBelieves Cup, Thorns FC fans waited to see if one of the team’s United States internationals would be given a full shift’s action.
Such worries need not apply to Lindsey Horan, who started in midfield for the third-straight tournament game while the U.S. claimed a 1-0, SBC-clinching win Wednesday over England. But on the bench for the tournament’s previous games was Emily Sonnett, whose standout NWSL and W-League seasons had only earned her a brief look against Germany during the first match of the tournament.
That all changed against England. At Orlando City Stadium, Sonnett was in Jill Ellis’s starting XI, and although she wasn’t at her customary center back position, her slot on the right side of defense was predictable. In the wake of injuries to Casey Short and Kelley O’Hara, was well as Taylor Smith being substituted out before halftime on Sunday against France, the depth chart turned in Sonnett’s favor, giving her the opportunity to resume the right back’s role she’d briefly occupied in a January friendly against Denmark.
Instead of a brief run-out this time, though, Sonnett went the full 90 minutes, and although there was a momentary wobble in the first half when an under-hit backpass was pounced on by England, the combination of Sonnett’s athleticism and center back’s instincts make a claim for more time in a fullback’s role. Even that errant pass was remedied quickly, with Sonnett quickly forcing a turnover of her own to offset her error.
It was a performance that could give Ellis pause, if not entirely win more time for Sonnett. The U.S. may yet prefer O’Hara, Smith and Short in its wide roles, but having somebody with Sonnett’s versatility becomes a force-multiplier on a depth chart. If the U.S. feels the need to carry more wingers, midfielders or forwards because of their wealth of options at those positions, having players as versatile as Sonnett allows them to do so.
Six months ago, Sonnett was fighting her way back into the U.S. picture, looking to reclaim the prominence that had slipped from her time as an alternate during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. After two strong club seasons and a reassuring international return, Sonnett is positioning herself to be a consistent callup, something that should give other Thorns on the edge of the U.S. national team picture reason for hope.
Carpenter, Sinclair complete Algarve runs
Canada and Australia completed their own international breaks with places next to each other in the Algarve Cup pecking order, though for one of those teams, that placing came on a slightly sour note.
That’s because Australia, one of the hottest sides in international soccer going into the tournament, found themselves stymied again by Portugal on Wednesday, with the host nation following up their surprise 0-0, group-stage draw with the Matildas with an upset 2-1 victory in the third-place game. Thorns right back Ellie Carpenter, who played every minute of Australia’s first three Algarve matches, was not in the squad for the team’s finale, one which relegated Alen Stajcic’s side to fourth place.
Canada, on the other hand, finished their tournament strong, earning a 2-0 victory over Japan to claim fifth place. As she did in Canada’s first three Algarve matches, Christine Sinclair started at forward, and despite not getting on the scoresheet for the third-straight game, the Thorns captain closed the tournament with a tournament-high three goals.