With her two goals, Smith became the 6th-youngest USWNT player to surpass double-digit goals.
Portland Thorns FC fans who tuned into the United States Women’s National team’s 4-0 victory against Nigeria witnessed a statline they have become quite familiar with this year: a Sophia Smith brace.
Not many American players have been in hotter form for club and country than Smith, who scored her 9th and 10th goals in red, white and blue on Saturday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.
“I see this happen all the time in Portland, so it’s old news,” said Thorns FC teammate Becky Sauerbrunn. “She’s really coming into her own, so skillful on the ball and hard to defend. Every game she keeps taking more strides, she’s a real world beater.”
Smith’s brace ends a goal-scoring drought, at least for her standards. She hadn’t scored since the Thorns’ 3-3 draw against the North Carolina Courage on August 5, but has 11 goals for Portland in league play.
The afternoon belonged to Smith, who scored her first goal in the 14th minute after receiving the ball in the United States’ attacking half and attacking the box before slotting the ball into the net. She completed the brace in first half stoppage time by tapping home a cross without needing a touch.
“That’s stuff that we work on in practice,” said Smith. “Those are just simple things and we executed it really well. (Emily) Fox played a great ball and all I had to do is be in the right place.”
And it wasn’t just goals that Smith brought to the table in her 65-minute shift on Saturday.
“I thought Smith played incredible and it’s not just the goals, but also her movement,” said USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski after the game. “She’s not just becoming individually a very good player, but she’s also bringing other players into the game and that helps them look better on the field.”
Early in the afternoon, Smith continued to drop deeper into midfield to pick up the ball where she could turn and run at Nigeria’s back line. She nearly added an assist to her tally with that movement, but her final ball to Mallory Pugh running into space was a touch too heavy.
“Every game is going to present different challenges,” said Smith. “Sometimes I do have to drop into midfield, get the ball and be more of a playmaker. Anything I can do to add to my game and add more diversity is great.”
With her brace, Smith became the sixth-fastest U.S player (22 games) to surpass double-digit goals, tied with Michelle Akers.
“Any time you get to do something like that is awesome, moreso it’s important to get a team win,” said Smith. “The records are great, but the performance is what means more to me.”
For Portland fans, it will never not be fun to see Smith burn defenders before putting the ball in the back of the net. For her USWNT teammates, well they were grateful to see a different side of her on Saturday afternoon.
“Her pace, athleticism and shot (stands out),” said Hailie Mace after the game. “Having her on my side tonight was awesome instead of playing against her.