The complete, modern center-back. It’s a lazy comparison, but it’s hard to not draw parallels with fellow UVA alum Becky Sauerbrunn, as Sonnett boasts many of the same traits as the current best center-back in the world. The poise under pressure, the grace in possession, and the willingness to step up with the ball and create offensively are more than evident in Sonnett’s game, and it’s hardly a surprise she was called up to the full USWNT earlier in 2015 to kickstart her career at senior international level. The start against Brazil revealed that Sonnett still has a ways to go to be able to consistently defend top level talent like Marta, but there’s an undeniable amount of potential on display in her game. Offensively, Sonnett’s a lot better in the air than you’d expect from a libero and is definitely a threat in the box on set pieces. Could also get a look at central midfielder, but she figures to be best used at the heart of defense. Pretty much a no-brainer at #1.
Far and away the best forward in this class. Makes finishing the simple and sublime look ridiculously easy. An expert in latching onto balls and passing them into the corners beyond flailing goalkeepers. Does well with playmakers who can play her into space, as once she establishes separation from defenders, she doesn’t lose it. Had to deal with some nagging injuries that limited her to eighteen starts and her fewest number of minutes since her rookie season, but still managed fourteen goals and eleven assists to finish with sixty-four goals and thirty-six assists in a spectacular UVA career. Efficiency numbers were even better than last season’s great haul, as Doniak netted fourteen on sixty-four shots and put a whopping 59.4% of her efforts on frame. More quick than explosively fast but can still find the ball with a burst of pace. I’m not sure she’ll ever be a USWNT star, but everything’s there for a lengthy and productive NWSL career.
3. Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame
Like drafting a left tackle in the NFL, Roccaro’s not going to be a flashy pick, but she’ll likely be a contributor early and for a while wherever she lands. Has played all over the park in career at youth international and collegiate level, though center-back or defensive midfield looks the likeliest roles at the next level. Was once considered this class’ top prospect and a future USWNT player, but her development has seemingly leveled off, to the point that she may already be at her ceiling. Does she have the pace to deal with explosive forwards at professional level? Had a more expansive role earlier in her career, scoring eleven goals in her first two seasons but was kept on the leash more as a senior, with just two shots total. Irish never seemed to really come together as a title contender with her as one of the club’s Alpha Dogs, so I’m a little skittish. But I still believe Roccaro will be an excellent pro and definitely worth an early first round pick for anyone needing defensive solidity.
Costa Rican went from being a very good player to one of the nation’s very best in a season in which she not only starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup but led her Nittany Lions to a long awaited national title. Can play multiple roles in midfield from being a deep lying creator to a more advanced attacking role. Comfortable finishing from all over the attacking zone, including with her head, but has an absolute rifle for a shot from distance and isn’t afraid to use it. Does a great job of finding loose balls in the area and stabbing them home. Has the vision and passing range to serve up balls to attackers. Technical skill allows her to dribble out of pressure, while physical strength makes her viable in the air on 50/50s. Can she defend top level talent? Had no shortage of clutch performances in big games, with nine of her goals being game winners, including in the College Cup final. Should be able to compete immediately, but likely to have plenty of European suitors.