Georgia World Cup reps Emily Sonnett, Kelley O’Hara open up on Atlanta, soccer, candy

U.S. World Cup team members Emily Sonnett (left) and Kelley O'Hara offer their approval prior to a training session on June 27, 2022 in Sandy, Utah. (Brad Smit/U.S. Soccer/ISI Photos)

Credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

Credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

U.S. World Cup team members Emily Sonnett (left) and Kelley O'Hara offer their approval prior to a training session on June 27, 2022 in Sandy, Utah. (Brad Smit/U.S. Soccer/ISI Photos)

What is Emily Sonnett’s favorite candy? What’s the worst that Kelley O’Hara has ever felt on a soccer field?

Serious questions, these. Georgia’s two representatives on the U.S. women’s World Cup team took on those inquiries and more in breaks from preparations to pursue an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup championship. The U.S. begins group play Friday evening (9 p.m. ET) in Auckland, New Zealand, against Vietnam.

O’Hara, a defender from Fayetteville, is making her fourth World Cup appearance, having helped the U.S. secure the past two championships. Despite that, her spot on this year’s roster was not secure, as injuries limited her time with the national team in the run-up to the World Cup. She broke down in tears when coach Vlatko Andonovski called to inform her that she had made the roster, a moment shared on the national team’s Twitter account.

“It was just a really long road, and there was a lot of doubt in my mind along the way because you never know how it’s going to go,” O’Hara said. “And so I very much felt like I would choose me for this team, but ultimately, it’s Vlatko’s decision, so I didn’t know which way he was going to go.”

Sonnett, a defender from Marietta, is making her second World Cup appearance. She described the experience – the hype, the world’s focus, the honor of representing one’s country in the world’s biggest soccer tournament – as unlike any other.

“So everything is magnified,” she said. “The feeling to actually play and go and compete at a World Cup for your country is pretty much unmatched.”

In separate interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they shared further about themselves, their affinity for Atlanta and, not least, their go-to sweets.

What’s the best you’ve ever felt on a field?

O’Hara: I feel like I’ve felt really, really good on the field so many times. There’s not one specific time I can think of, which, I feel very lucky to be able to say that. I just think when I’m in the zone, when I’m playing well, when I’m just reacting and operating as opposed to having to think through things – you hear athletes talk about being in that flow state – I feel like I’ve been in that many times.

Sonnett: I forget the year, I think it was 2018 (actually 2017), with the Portland Thorns, we won the NWSL championship. I would say that we were in Orlando, we were away, we won the final game, so we were champions of NWSL. I feel like that was probably my best moment that I’ve felt. The team was really close, I felt like we were all performing really well and we ended the year with, obviously, winning, so there really was no better moment than that.

What’s the worst you’ve ever felt on a field?

O’Hara: Probably senior year at Stanford, the national championship, I got two (yellow cards), so I got a red and got sent off and spent the end of my college career watching my team lose in the national championship of what would have been an undefeated season for us.

Sonnett: I don’t know if I have a worst that I’ve felt. There’s nothing really that comes to mind.

Who’s your favorite Atlanta athlete?

O’Hara: I’d say Emily Sonnett.

Sonnett: Ooh. I would say recently, I always think of (former Braves shortstop and Marietta High grad) Dansby Swanson just because we’re the same age. He’s obviously not an Atlanta athlete (currently now with the Cubs), but I always consider him an Atlanta athlete and he probably would, too. That’s who I’m going to have to say, another Marietta (product).

Who’s the greatest women’s player of all-time?

O’Hara: Dang. I guess I’ll go with Mia Hamm. There’s a lot of good ones to choose from, but I’d say Mia.

Sonnett: I would say – I got to play with her very briefly in Orlando – but Marta, the Brazilian. I think it’s incredible, the longevity of her career, and she’s still so good. I think that’s absolutely insane. But I’d say that would probably be my all-time best right now in this moment.

Who’s the greatest player, male or female, from Georgia?

O’Hara: Also tough. Am I the only one who’s won two World Cups?

(Morgan Gautrat from St. Simon’s Island also played on the 2015 and 2019 World Cup champion teams, but did not make this year’s team. O’Hara also has Olympic gold and bronze medals to her credit. She is one of 12 women in U.S. history to play on four World Cup teams.)

I definitely don’t want to say myself, but, if we’re just going off of that, I guess me? But I don’t want you to put that in the newspaper.

Sonnett: I know (MLS star and 2022 men’s World Cup participant) Walker Zimmerman’s from Georgia. If it comes down to actual accolades and hall of fame, it is Kelley. Like, it is. So my answer would be Kelley.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Atlanta?

O’Hara: I love a good day just on the Beltline. Like, hopping from brewery to brewery, grabbing good food at either Krog or Ponce. That’s a picturesque day, to me, in Atlanta.

Sonnett: I like going to this coffee shop called Muchacho (in Reynoldstown). They have the best breakfast tacos and really good coffee. That’s probably my favorite thing to do.

Make the case for the north suburbs/south suburbs:

O’Hara (from Fayette County): Listen, the south suburbs, like Peachtree City/Fayetteville is really holding it down for the south suburbs in my opinion. Therefore, that to me is enough. They have a lot of stuff up there up north, and it gets confusing. It’s just like, yeah, you’re from the north side. Like, I don’t know, Kennesaw, Marietta, wherever. But you say Peachtree City and Fayetteville, people know what you’re talking about.

Sonnett (from Cobb County): I want to say (the north suburbs have) better high school football. I don’t know if she’ll get offended by that. I do know that where she’s from, they have golf carts and all the kids drive (those) to school. It’s kind of like, What is that about? We don’t have that.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

O’Hara: The best advice I’ve ever gotten is from my dad, and it was never make a decision when you’re really high or you’re really low.

Sonnett: Be passionate. Usually when someone’s saying this, it’s usually talking about sports. But if you’re not passionate about soccer, then go find something that you are passionate about and then do that to your fullest. I thought that lined up into being soccer as my career, but if it wasn’t – or the person next to me playing growing up – if this isn’t what you’re passionate about, go find your passion and then do it to the best of your ability.

What’s your favorite candy?

O’Hara: My favorite candy is Take 5.

Sonnett: Kit Kat.

What’s your least favorite candy?

O’Hara: I don’t like anything black licorice. None of that.

Sonnett: Anything sour.

What should people know about Kelley O’Hara/Emily Sonnett:

O’Hara: She’s a very good dancer, a really good dog mom and a really good cook. She’s a good picker of places to eat or try, basically.

Sonnett: Kelley is the most competitive person I have ever met. And she also makes the best chocolate chip cookie dough. She does. You’ve got to message her for her secret recipe. It is so good. When you cook ‘em, they’re still pretty good, but the cookie dough is so good.

About the Author