The 2022 NWSL MVP resides in the Rose City.
With 14 goals and three assists to her name in the regular season, Sophia Smith was recognized as the NWSL's most valuable player on Thursday afternoon. Smith is the first Thorn to win the award since Lindsey Horan took home the honor in 2018 following a 13 goal, two assist season.
There may be no player more terrifying with the ball at her feet in the entire NWSL than Smith, who finished second in the golden boot race behind San Diego's Alex Morgan. Long-range strikes and incredible solo efforts make up her 17 goals between the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup and regular season. In Portland Thorns FC's Aug. 5 game against the North Carolina Courage, Smith became the youngest player in league history to score 10 or more goals in a single season.
Also recently named the 2023 Supporter's Player of the Year. Smith has scored braces in consecutive matches and is capable of generating exciting moments that bring fans to their feet. Ahead of this Saturday's NWSL Championship game in Washington D.C. (5 p.m. PT, CBS), we attempted to rank all of her goals so far this season* –– or at least tried our best to relive them.
*Much like trying to defend her, it's impossible to actually rank Smith's goals, so we're just trying our best.
All we can say is that we still don't know how Smith turned this situation into a goal. Surrounded by three Courage defenders, to run centrally only to cut back right on a dime and lose multiple defenders? Well, it defines almost every possible law of physics.
So crafty when it comes to creating space for herself, this goal is arguably her best solo goal of the season and, perhaps, even of her Thorns FC career thus far.
With several beautiful medium-to-long-range shots to choose from, what makes Smith's goal in the season opener against the KC Current rank so highly? It begins with her first touch to settle Meghan Klingenberg's floated pass in front of her and ends with the decisiveness to take a shot as the ball is still bouncing. Combine those things with the tight angle she took the shot from as well as the top-of-the net finish against former teammate AD Franch and it all comes together for a piece of skill that has enough difficult components to separate itself at the top of this list.
Watching a relatively isolated Smith receive the ball with space around her at the top of the box has to be a defenders' worst nightmare. Does she cut centrally and attempt a curling shot, or try to use her pace to cut to her outside foot and try to slot a shot toward the far post at a tight angle? It's anyone's best guess, and several of the goals on the list involve those two types of finishes.
In this situation, she does neither. Instead, she uses her right foot to drag the ball almost vertically before switching feet to take a knuckling shot toward the far post. The ball almost moves in a straight line and there is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop it.
Give Smith room at the top of the box at your own peril.
The forward made this technical strike look as easy as a tap-in and taught the Pride a valuable lesson. Once she receives the ball in the final third, the battle's already won.
Another goal worthy of highlight reel treatment, this effort against Angel City is just a showcase of her blazing speed and soccer IQ. The chance begins by making a run off the defender's back shoulder and positioning herself to give her no chance at getting back in the play. After leaving one defender face down in her wake, it's just a one-on-one opportunity in the box, Smith had all the leverage and she took her low-driven strike well from the middle of the box.
Another brilliant solo effort, once Smith receives the ball at midfield, it's off to the races.
With multiple defenders shielding her right side and the outside back yards behind her, the forward took a controlled touch wide before pushing her shot right back across the face of goal and into the far bottom corner of the net.
For most NWSL players, this is an extremely difficult finish at a near-impossible angle. Then again, Smith has proven time and time again this season that she is not most NWSL players.
Her goal against the Spirit was all about the placement from an angle where many hit the side-netting. It wasn't a laser-driven shot from outside the box, but it may have been equally as jaw-dropping.
Nothing may better depict the type of goals Smith has been scoring this season than the fact this goal, a low-driven shot from outside the box, is as low on this list as it is.
In the same spot she later scored her top-corner screamer, Smith was completely comfortable trying a low-driven shot with pace and it paid off, finding the bottom corner of the net at a high speed.
She left it until late, but Smith set a new Thorns record for regular-season goals, 14, with her last score of the 2022 regular season.
Her second goal in as many minutes was a beauty, flicking home a cross from Hina Sugita to give Portland a 2-1 lead in Harrison, New Jersey, right before heading to the locker room.
Just one touch and Smith is gone.
Coming in clutch, the forward made her late go-ahead strike look easy as she perfectly timed her run between center backs before taking a few touches, made a simple cut to generate yards of separation and showed off her composure on the finish, much to the approval of the thousands of fans at Providence Park.
Not every goal has to be a work of art, which Smith shows here.
The definition of a scrappy goal, Smith showcases her strength to fight off defenders in the box and uses her ingenuity to get a high boot to the ball and poke it past her USWNT teammate Alyssa Naeher. No matter what it looks like, each goal counts the same, and this one helped Portland ultimately take home a hard-fought point from the Windy City.
After four-consecutive NWSL games without a goal, Smith was hungry to return to the scoresheet. She finally broke through following halftime in the Thorns game against Racing Louisville with a goal that sparked a 3-0 route.
Sprinting behind the visitor's back line, Smith brought down a picture-perfect lofted ball from Kelli Hubly before taking a touch and slotting the ball confidently past Katie Lund. After a cold run of games, the goal reminded the rest of the league of her scoring mojo.
Smith's first goal of the 2022 campaign perfectly defined how head coach Rhian Wilkinson wants her team to link up in the final third. A complete team effort, the genius in this goal comes from the timing of Smith's run between the center back and outside back to get on the end of Natalia Kuikka's low cross and turn it into the back of the net for a fifth-minute goal.
Last, but not least, we would be remiss not to show Smith's three conversions from the penalty spot so far this season. Sure, her half-volleys and back-line-splitting runs make for sizzling highlight reels, but Smith is cool as a cucumber from the spot.