The expectations were always high for young prospect Sophia Smith after becoming the number one overall pick of the 2020 NWSL draft. Two years later, she’s proven herself to be a key component of the Portland Thorns’ success.
Smith has recorded 10 goals in 32 appearances for the NWSL side so far, most notability two this season to lead the Thorns to two victories in the 2022 Challenge Cup group stage. But her efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning her several call ups to the US women’s national team.
Slowly becoming a regular of the national team, Smith admitted it’s a daunting challenge she’s willing to take on.
“I’m really excited, I think it’s definitely going to be a challenge just because a lot of us are so young and don’t have that experience that a lot of other players have. So I think it’s a matter of getting that experience and the only way to do that is in-game, so I think it’s great that we’re getting these opportunities.”
She was a standout in the USWNT’s recent friendly against Uzbekistan, scoring a hat-trick to become the youngest American to accomplish the feat since 2000. In a new generation of players, Smith is leading the way.
“Then I just think it’s like a fresh energy. I feel like we all come into camp and are excited and are ready to get to work and build these new relationships and strengthen the ones that may already be there from other experiences. So I’m excited about it. I think this is an awesome group with so much potential. It’s hard to even put into words. I watch people in training and I get excited watching. I think we could do really, really, really cool things and it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together,” she admitted.
While key figures like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press remain an integral part of the team, head coach Vlatko Andonovski opted for a younger roster to provide players the necessary experience.
“We have four games left before World Cup and Olympic qualifying and it’s up to the players and staff to maximize every minute we get together on the field and in the meeting room,” said Andonovski after announcing the roster.
“We have quite a few injuries in our player pool that we are dealing with, but that also means more opportunities for other players and the chance to continue to deepen our roster as we continue to work to find the best combination of players to take to Mexico in July.”
This is the second time Andonovski prioritizes the new generation, after famously stating 'November is a new chapter', prior to the US Victory Tour.
The USWNT hosts Uzbekistan again on Tuesday in the final friendly of the April international window as the team gears up for World Cup and Olympic qualifiers in the upcoming months.