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Emily Sonnett straddles line between USWNT generations

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Emily Sonnett, right, and Kristie Mewis take the field before the USWNT's World Cup-opening win against Vietnam on July 22. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

Emily Sonnett feels more settled in her second World Cup with the U.S. women’s national team, even as she straddles the generation gap.

For the 28-year-old defender, the World Cup routine is more familiar to her this time around, from media responsibilities to international travel to the elevated pressure on game days.

“I just think I’m a little more comfortable,” she told USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara for Just Women’s Sports. “I think I’m established more with groups and friends as well. So it all feels a bit more comfortable.”

Yet Sonnett also finds herself in a new position — no longer a newcomer, but not quite a veteran either. The USWNT features 14 World Cup debutantes on its roster, and five players who already had played in at least two tournaments. That leaves four players — Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Crystal Dunn — in between.

Sonnett has looked to help some of the newcomers as they’re navigating their first World Cup. She also has looked to step up in her position group in the absence of Becky Sauerbrunn, who is missing what would have been her fourth World Cup with a foot injury.

“I don’t know if I feel like a leader, but I feel like I’m approachable and people can ask me questions. Because I’m right in that line, where I’m not a millennial, but I’m not a Gen Z,” Sonnett said. “I feel like I’m both sides? But I think that’s maybe my role off the field, where I may be approachable to Gen Z slash millennials.”

As a bridge between the Gen Z up-and-comers (Alyssa Thompson, Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma) and the veteran stars (Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Kelley O’Hara), she can help usher the USWNT into its new era. She knows just how hard the road to the World Cup title can be, especially as the grind wears on players.

“While at the tournament, I feel like it doesn’t get really hard until the middle of the tournament,” she said. “I wish I would have known. Like it gets really hard mentally because you kind of get settled more into your roles.”

Still, with experience and a new perspective on her side, Sonnett will look to help the USWNT to its third consecutive World Cup title.