Former Virginia soccer stars shine at the Women’s World Cup

A trio of former Cavaliers join Virginia head coach in France for the World Cup

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Virginia women's soccer Coach Steve Swanson is currently serving as an assistant coach for the USWNT in France. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

As the United States women’s national soccer team gears up for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Lyon, France this Sunday, Virginia fans will be excited to see familiar faces on the pitch and on the sidelines.

Former Virginia defender Becky Sauerbrunn — the 2007 ACC Defensive Player of the Year — started in 90 matches over four seasons for the Cavaliers and since her debut for the national team in 2008, has appeared in 166 matches for the U.S. During the last several years, Sauerbrunn has been a mainstay on the national team. 

She joined the team on their run to the 2011 World Cup finals, won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and played every minute for the eventual champions at the 2015 World Cup. In the 2019 World Cup, Sauerbrunn has played in all but one match for the Americans, anchoring a defense that has only allowed three goals in 540 minutes of tournament play.

Former Virginia defender Emily Sonnett, who was both the 2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and 2015 ESPNW National Player of the Year during her time as a Cavalier, started in 89 matches for Virginia and garnered three All-ACC selections. 

Sonnett started her USWNT career during the 2015 Victory Tour and has earned 34 international caps since then. In France, she provided the United States with a valuable bench option as both a defender and defensive midfielder.

Rounding out the three is former Virginia midfielder Morgan Brian — the first player in program history to record both 40 goals and 40 assists in their career. Brian was the fourth women’s player in history to win the Hermann Trophy two years in a row in 2013 and 2014, which is awarded to the top men’s and women’s collegiate player every year. 

Furthermore, in all four seasons at Virginia, Brian was named First Team All-ACC, all while appearing in 19 matches for the USWNT during her collegiate career. Since then, Brian has appeared in 64 more matches for the national team, playing a vital role in the team’s 2015 World Cup victory, and starting against Chile in the 2019 World Cup. Beyond her play, Brian provides crucial experience on the sidelines and on the pitch.

Alongside the three former Cavaliers, serving as an assistant coach for the USWNT, is Virginia women’s soccer Coach Steve Swanson. Swanson has led the Cavaliers for 19 years, winning two ACC titles and making the NCAA tournament every year. In addition to his collegiate head coaching duties, Swanson has served as an assistant coach under USWNT Coach Jill Ellis at both the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, making him a valuable asset to the coaching staff determined to lead the U.S. to another World Cup victory.

The United States take on the Netherlands in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final Sunday July 7 at the Stade de Lyon in Lyon, France. The match will be broadcast live on Fox and Telemundo at 11 a.m.

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