In her final game at Providence Park before departing for Australia and New Zealand, where she will compete in the 2023 Women’s World Cup with the US Women’s National Team, forward Sophia Smith reminded fans and the NWSL at large why she is regarded as one of the best talents in women’s soccer today.
Two first-half goals scored from outside the box, both nestled into the same lower corner of the net just below the stadium’s North End, drew reactions of joy, shock and disbelief. A third added on for good measure early in the second half, clinching a hat trick, propelled the Thorns to a 4-2 win against the Washington Spirit on Friday night.
After going seven games in all competitions without tallying a goal – a drought, at least according to her standards – Smith has found the back of the net in four-consecutive matches, a run that dates back to Portland’s 2-0 win against OL Reign in Seattle on June 3. Smith is, without a doubt, one of the most in-form goal scorers in the league going into this summer’s World Cup.
“I think tonight speaks in terms to the quality she has,” coach Mike Norris said after the match. “She’s playing with a bit of lightness. I think the goals in the last couple of weeks have helped her take a little bit of internal pressure off herself.”
It’s impossible to take eyes off Smith at any point during a Thorns game. Whether it’s a flick to propel herself past a defender or a perfect first touch to bring down a cross-field switch, Smith frequently finds herself as the fulcrum of the team’s most dangerous chances, often to a chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs.”
On her first goal, she received a direct ball in midfield, dribbled past multiple defenders and slotted the ball into the far corner of the net with a powerful low-driven shot. Her second goal, 12 minutes later, was nearly a carbon-copy of the first. When Washington leveled the score at 2-2 early in the second half, Smith secured her hat trick minutes later, receiving the ball behind line, driving even deeper into the box, and using her left foot to slot home a goal which allowed the Thorns to reclaim the lead for good.