USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski hails Sophia Smith as 'special player'

Lizzy Becherano
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski hails Sophia Smith.
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski hails Sophia Smith. / Erin Chang/ISI Photos/GettyImages

The US women’s national team defeated Nigeria 4-0 on Saturday at Children's Mercy Park in a friendly as goals from Sophia Smith, Lindsey Horan and Alex Morgan sent the crowd into a frenzy. 

But it was NWSL youngster Smith who stole the show, scoring twice in the first half to earn praise from USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski. 

"First and foremost, this is the best team in the world and in order to play on this team, you have to be one of the best in the world," Andonovski said.

"She is a special player and she's certainly developing aspects of her game that she maybe wasn't special in: ability to pop in pockets or to recognize those pockets and then expose the defense. For us as coaches, we're happy to see that because it gives us another layer or gives us an opportunity to create strategy in a way that we believe we can expose teams."

Smith now boasts 10 career goals in just 22 appearances for the national team, tying with Michelle Akers for sixth-fastest to double-digit goals in USWNT history. She has also maintained a rhythm with her club, the Portland Thorns, scoring 11 goals this season to sit two behind NWSL Golden Boot leader Alex Morgan. 

"I thought she played incredible and it's not just a goal that she's scored but also her movement individually," Andonovski added. 

"Individual movements are very good but then her movements off of Alex [Morgan] were very precise. We saw a couple of good connections with Alex, a couple good connections with the players that were around. She's becoming not just individually a very good player but she's also bringing other players in the game and helps them look better on the field."

The young player has quickly earned her spot in the starting line up, kicking off 12 of the United States' 13 games this year. Andonovski started the same group that defeated Canada 1-0 in July's Concacaf W Championship final, seeing results in consistency. 

"We always talk about, in order for our forwards to get the balls from Lindsey [Horan] and Rose [Lavelle], before anything else they need to help them get on the ball by creating space for them," Andonovski said. 

"I thought today the synchronization between the forwards and the midfielders was very good."

The USWNT will host Nigeria once again on Tuesday, this time at Audi Field in Washington D.C. in front of a sold out crowd.