Sophia Smith, a 21-year-old forward with only a couple of years of professional experience, is making some real waves in the NWSL and with the United States women’s national team.
A standout at Stanford, Smith was a two-time Pac-12 Champion (2018-2019) and NCAA Division I Champion (2019) before forgoing the remainder of her NCAA eligibility and entering the 2020 NWSL Draft. Smith was selected first overall by the Portland Thorns in 2020 and made four appearances while starting twice for the club in the 2020 Fall Series.
She also made her USWNT debut later that year in November, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to take the field for the United States.
Since then, Smith has shown flashes of brilliance that might foreshadow what’s to come for the rest of her professional soccer career. In the 2021 NWSL Regular Season, Smith’s first ‘true’ professional season, she led the Thorns in scoring after putting seven goals away in 21 games. Smith contributed to the Thorns’ successful 2021 season that saw them capture Challenge Cup and Women’s International Champions Cup titles along with the NWSL Shield. On the international stage in 2021, Smith made her first senior national team start – a game in which she also notched her first USWNT goal and assist.
Clearly, there was no sign of a sophomore slump for Smith last season.
SMITH IN 2022
In 2022, Smith picked up right where she left off. In 10 appearances across Portland’s 11 games, Smith has scored six of the team’s 14 goals, which is the most of any other Thorns player. She has also recorded a little over 25% (40/149) of the Thorns’ shots, which is also the most of any player on Portland’s roster. Smith’s mixture of speed and dribbling ability, along with her strong right foot, makes her extremely difficult to stop in the open field.
Then there’s that little bit of veteran (which, to be clear, she is not) savvy that you can see on this lovely goal against Angel City earlier this season. By bumping the defender at just the right time, Smith creates space for herself. Once she’s on the ball, that magical right foot does the rest.
THE NUMBERS LOVE SMITH
Looking at her numbers, Smith really shines when she’s compared to the rest of the league.
Of players who have recorded at least 500 minutes in 2022, Smith is only behind the Chicago Red Stars’ Mallory Pugh in goals added (g+, American Soccer Analysis) per 96 minutes with 0.31. But she does rank first among the league’s strikers and in several specific g+ categories across all strikers with at least 500 minutes played as well, including dribbling, receiving, and shooting g+.
Visualizations courtesy of Eliot McKinley and American Soccer Analysis.
It’s worth mentioning that these statistics are only true through 11 games and about 1,000 fewer minutes than last season. Even so, Smith was impressive in American Soccer Analysis’s g+ metrics last year, too. She was third overall in g+ per 96 minutes (0.25) and second among strikers when combining Challenge Cup and Regular Season statistics.
So, if last season is any indication, it’s likely that she will continue on this path in 2022.
Smith has also been impressive on the international stage this year. USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski named Smith to the 2022 SheBelieves Cup roster in February. Smith undoubtedly seized those opportunities during SheBelieves and Andonovski lauded her performances during the tournament, recognizing her ability in transition and her work rate on both sides of the ball.
She also turned heads during the April FIFA window, when she quadrupled her international goals tally after scoring her first national team hat trick. She became the youngest USWNT player to score a hat trick since 2000 – which also happens to be the year she was born.
With international friendlies on the horizon before the USWNT seeks to qualify for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in the Concacaf W Championship this July, we should keep an eye out for Smith’s name on the United States’ roster. If her recent form is any indication, look for her name on the score sheet later this month, too.