And just like that, by an assist, we have a new Golden Boot leader. Sophia Smith’s third brace in her last four games catapulted her to the top of the scoring charts, bumping down season-long leader Alex Morgan. While Morgan’s four penalties helped push her tally higher, Smith has taken and converted two, with the rest coming from open play — where she is an unholy terror.
Sophia Smith turned 22 just this week but new Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson has chosen to build her attack around the young star, and with good reason. Within Smith’s game is a skill, ability or tool that can unsettle any defender in her way: relentless motion, timing and directness, close control, change of direction, acceleration, strength, balance, quick shot technique and comfort with both feet.
On top of these attributes, Smith is also fearless. Not in the synonymous-with-reckless way, but in her demonstrated belief that there isn’t a defender alive that can stop her from getting a shot off. Thanos once said “I am inevitable,” but Sophia reminds defenses across the nation, and at times the globe, week after week.
And there’s no escape. She can attack at any spot from sideline to sideline. She’s beaten defenders for goals playing wide right or left as a traditional winger, or as an inverted forward in spaces above either corner of the box, and while not a center forward, she can also make runs in behind like one.
Central to Sophia Smith’s meteoric season is how she’s learned to put all of this together. As such, she’s seen to it that the quintessential Sophia Smith Goal come with a healthy portions of violence and disrespect.
Splitting three panicked defenders before wrongfooting the keeper for a calm finish? Nasty. A midfield flick, turn and instant one-person counter attack? My god. Popping the ball over a defender at full speed before an outside of the foot finish? Mesmerizing. Shooting from an absurd angle that caused several geometry teachers to quit their jobs? Madness. Shrugging one defender to the ground, setting one up in the box, and blasting an arrow to the bottom corner? Vicious.
Smith’s age and performances also suggests that she, terrifyingly, isn’t near her final form. Just one day past her 22nd birthday, she’s already made a tremendous leap in her ability to finish chances she creates. This season she’s put it all together while placing the ball in the back of the net with her right or left foot, and from in or outside the penalty area.
Sophia Smith has become not just the best attacking force in the NWSL, but one of the best in the world. A year ago, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski elected not to bring Smith to the Olympics. Now, Smith has carved her name in stone for both club and country.