Colorado’s very own Sophia Smith is on a hot streak like no other. U.S. Soccer has officially named her the 2022 Female Player Of The Year. The Real Colorado Soccer product joins locals Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh-Swanson who previously won the prestigious award.
The articulate and self confident 22-year-old was the leading scorer for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT). Smith is the youngest player to lead the U.S. in scoring since great Mia Hamm scored 10 goals in 1993.
Smith scored 10 goals in just 22 caps, and in doing so become the sixth fastest player get double digit goals in the lengthy history of the USWNT.
During her 2022 National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) with the Portland Thorns FC, Smith was named the League’s MVP, and earned the same homage for her heroic performance during the NWSL Championship Game.
Her 14 goals came in 18 appearances, of which she started 16 with the Thorns.
To cap-off her streak of awards, last week the fleet-footed attacking winger learned that she had been voted the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.
She snagged nearly 51% of the votes submitted, and so, clearly beat out her runner up, U.S. Women’s National Team veteran Alex Morgan, who won 18.4% of the total number of votes submitted.
In 2015, her Real Colorado Youth Soccer Club teammate Mallory Pugh-Swanson won the top honor, and in 2013, Rush Colorado’s standout Lindsey Horan hauled-in the prize.
According to U.S. Soccer votes for U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year are collected from respective national team coaches, players who earned a cap in 2022, members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, National Women’s Soccer League head coaches and invited media members, administrators and college coaches.
Fans are also able to take part in the voting, with their portion weighted at 15% of the total.
“This was a big year for Sophia, and she deserves this recognition, but I’m just excited about where she can take her game from here,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski stated after the award winner was announced. “She is a special player with special qualities, but the best thing is that has the humbleness, work ethic and drive to keep developing all aspects of her game.”
Last fall the well-spoken native of small-town Windsor, Colorado spoke up during a press event, and both clearly and calmly announced her intentions of become the best women footballer on Earth.
She described what it will take to achieve such a lofty milestone.
“I know that I need someone to push me. I need someone to have very high standards for me. Even if I don’t like to hear certain things, or get frustrated, ultimately I understand that that’s what’s helping me get better and what’s helping me grow.”
She added, “I’ve said many times, if you embrace these environments, you have no choice but to get better and grow, and that’s a testament to the players, coaches and all of the staff. I appreciate everyone holding me to such high standards day in and day out. This award wouldn’t be possible without all those people, and the best thing about it, is that it’s fun too. The journey is so much better when you are doing something so fun and something you love.”
What a year for @sophsssmith!— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) November 13, 2022
The 22-year-old scores the equalizer for her team-leading 11th goal of 2022. She's on track to become the youngest player to lead the USA in scoring in a calendar year since Mia Hamm in 1993 pic.twitter.com/GJJdULPrHZ
Smith closed out her interview with these insightful remarks, “I think it’s going to be a constant grind and getting better,” adding “I don’t think there’s an end goal in what that looks like. But I think it’s just putting myself in an environment every day where I know I’m going to be challenged and I’m going to get better and grow. Not only just as a player, but a person as well.”
Smith started in 17 games for Team USA, and went on to score 11 goals. She ranked second on the team by logging in 1,192 minutes of play.
Two of her goals came to be in front of a capacity crowd at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City against Columbia.
This past spring, Smith delivered her first ever hat trick against Uzbekistan. In doing so, she becoming the youngest USWNT player since 2000 score a hat trick in USWNT history.Soon after winning the 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year award, Smith shared these sentiments with the media:
“Throughout my career there’s been so much growth in the investment of women’s soccer. I think people are finally starting to realize that if you pay attention, and if you put the game on a channel where people can watch it easily like the men’s … and if you invest, and if you take the time, it’s a really amazing sport and people want to watch, and people care about it.”
“Obviously this is surreal, and I’m super humbled. It’s been a very exciting year, and certainly there’s been some challenges, but just being able to grow and develop in the environments with the national team and the Thorns, and being surrounded by such amazing players, players that I have looked up to for so long, has pushed me to become a better player and person.”
Andonovski is one of her top champions. He described her coachable nature and upside. “As coaches, she’s a joy to work with because she’s always looking for that edge to become better and more productive. As a person, she’s a wonderful part of our team, a fantastic teammate and we’re looking forward to her having another great year in 2023.”
The senior team gaffer invited Smith to her first evaluation camp with the senior team on January 5 to 15, 2020. Since then she has been on an absolute roll and still has a mountain of potential to realize.
Smith is currently rehabilitating an injured foot that she sustained while playing last fall. As a result, Andonovski did not call her up last week to the team’s next camp that will be held in New Zealand later this month.
He detailed his reasoning during his last press conference:
“We felt that this was the time that we wanted to fix this and not have any problems going forward,” he continued, “In fact, she’s back to training or light training now. Because of the treatment that she received in December, she wasn’t able to train and get up to speed or necessary fitness in order to be in the January camp.”