During yesterday’s press conference at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Coloradan Sophia Smith stated “We are very hungry for a win coming off two losses. That hasn’t happened in a very long time and it’s not the best feeling.”
To be exact, the Lady Yanks had not lost twice in a row since 2017 when they were soundly defeated by France 3-0 in old RFK stadium in Washington D.C. and lost the SheBelieves Cup tournament that they were hosting, and a few days early were blanked by England, 1-0.
Near panic almost broke out in the rank and file media and the fan base after the semi-competitive tournament closed out and the U.S. finished last in the event.
At her news gathering, Smith continued, “We also know there’s things we to work on we didn’t do well enough the last few games, so we’re not putting all the focus on the outcome, but if we do the little things right, we will get the outcome we want.”
Germany is an ideal opponent to face in order to help the U.S. right the ship after Spain and England sank them last month in overseas play.
They are ranked thirds in the FIFA Women’s table, were runner ups to England in the recent UEFA EURO 2022 tournament, and are hard-nosed playing outfit made up with very talented women.
Smith and her teammates are gearing of for next summer’s Women’s World Cup tournament by tackling a mix of tough opponents in successive friendlies.
After playing Germany twice this week, the team will head to New Zealand to play it’s notable national team.
In February, the Stars and Stripes host the annual SheBelieves Cup here in America.
It is expected that top ranking FIFA opponents will arrive and test the Yank’s roster that head coach Vlatko Andonovski is still optimizing.
Smith is up for the forthcoming challenges.
Before and after the team’s short junket to play in Spain and England, the Real Colorado Soccer Club product has been the center of a mountain of attention.
Since returning stateside she won the North American Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) 2022 Most Valuable Player award while playing with the Portland Thorns, and helped her team win the NWSL Champions by scoring the go-ahead goal in the finale that was held just two week ago in Kansas City
This all comes after only being in the league for just two years.
In 2020, she was Portland’s first pick in the draft.
Prior to joining the Thorns, she was a crusader as a Standard University Cardinal, and took soccer top honors in Palo Alto, California during her two seasons there before turning pro.
In 2019 she chipped in to help Stanford lift the NCAA DI national women’s soccer championship trophy.
Before that, Smith was the pride and joy of Real Colorado’s youth development program. For that matter, she still is.
The teen would make two hour drives up and down Interstate 25 four to six times a week to her practice sessions and games from metropolitan Fort Collins, to the club’s fields south of Denver field.
“I try not to put pressure on myself; I just try to be myself. I want to just be Sophie Smith.”
“I don’t want to be exactly like anyone else. That’s what’s cool about this team. Everyone can be their own unique player and person, and we take pride in that.”
And cool Smith is. When asked about Smith traits, USWNT head coach Coach Vlatko Andonovski commented, “She’s special in many different ways. Obviously, her ability to score goals is something that she’s very good at.”
He added, “ But one thing she’s real special at, if you analyze her goals, is that with the exception of one, all the other ones she created herself, a one-woman show.”
Later in the media conference, former University of Colorado, Boulder soccer standout and USWNT team member Taylor Kornieck stated- “She’s incredible. Kornieck is also a member of the NWSL’s San Diego team. Every time we play Portland, she’s number one on the list to watch. Her quickness, her speed, her finishing is some of the best I’ve ever seen. She’s very dangerous, and we’re very fortunate to have her on our team.”
Smith’s stellar play keeps filling Andonovski’s notebook with highlights, attributes and where to improve notes.
Last month in London, the U.S. was short on capable strikers. Alex Morgan out with a knee injury. Catarina Macario waa recuperating from knee surgery, and Mallory Pugh was home in on personal leave.
Andonovski inserted Smith in the most prominent offensive role on the pitch against England- in the number 9 striker position.
Smith responded in-kind by demonstrating both true grit and self-confidence.
In the 28th minute, the Yanks were trailing 1-0 to an aggressive England team. The Lionesses attempted to play trademark traditional from the back, when Colorado Rush idol, Lindsey Horan forced a turnover near the top of 18th yard box.
The free ball had eyes for the pressing Smith. She fielded the ball up, spun and launched a shot on goal that easily found the back of the net.
The goal was her 10th in this calendar year, and 11th overall goal, all achieved in a mere 24 caps.
The tough England team did not relent and with the aid of a roaring home crowd in massive Wembley Stadium they responded to the equalizer within minutes.
Yanks defender Hailie Mace, another youngster in Andonovski master plan, high kicked Lucy Bronze in the jaw while trying to clear the ball. The field judge blew her whistle and the call went to VAR. The review supported the home side and a successful PK followed... 2-1 England.
Team USA mounted another comeback and believed that they had knotted up the back-and-forth game in minute of play. Once again Smith was in the mix.
Smith was dribbling up the right side of the pitch and was heading towards the box. In the same zone, her attacking partner, 20-year-old, Trinity Rodman was in full stride running on the diagonal towards the left side of the box.
Smith found Megan Rapinoe ahead of her with a beautiful through pass. Rapinoe healed the ball to Rodman-on-the-go and she proceeded to crush the ball with a mean swing into the goal.
A celebration ensued, then an official’s whistle, then a long VAR review of the entire sequence of events.
The outcome was not favorable to the U.S. Smith was ruled offside by a metric centimeter, if that. By all accounts the call was wrong. Rodman’s point was rescinded, and the celebration quickly dissipated.
The second half was just as chipper with both teams pressing forward. Neither scored on many valiant attempts including the often penetrating Smith. The win ultimately went to the classy Lionesses.
"I'm very proud of my players to play this game after everything that happened in the last week. Their mental toughness showed tonight."@USWNT's Vlatko Andonovski reflects on their match with England pic.twitter.com/Y3BIwv9x19— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 7, 2022
In the loss Andonovski and his staff gain valuable insight into the combination play and character of his youngest recruits. They inturn have learned valuable lessons from the defeat.
Andonovski said of Smith- “To come in an environment like this, and to be a difference maker, score a goal and I told her she had another incredible assist for another goal that was called back, it just shows the potential that she has.”
The amiable gaffer continued, “I think that we haven’t seen the best of her. These are games that will expedite Soph’s development, and I’m excited to see what she’s going to look like six months from, now nine months from now.”
Here is Southeast Florida, meteorologists, DRV PNK Stadium stadium personnel and staff from both the German and United States teams are all monitoring very fast moving Hurricane Nicole that has engulfed the entire region.
As off last night it was still- ‘Game On!’
U.S. Soccer issued this statement to the media and fan-base:
On current weather conditions in South Florida: pic.twitter.com/pbrGRZoxlJ— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) November 9, 2022