Sophia Smith, a “special,” leads the USWNT to the SheBelieves Cup.

Columbus, Ohio Sophia Smith is no stranger to scoring spectacular goals, but she is now completing them when against Canada.

Tuesday at Field, Smith scored twice as the United States won the SheBelieves Cup for the seventh time in nine tournament editions, defeating Canada 5-4 in a penalty shootout.

After winning in a Gold Cup semifinal, it was the USWNT’s second penalty shootout victory over Canada in 34 days. Smith’s solo effort was just another illustration of the 23-year-old striker “being a special player in a special moment within our team concept,” according to USWNT interim coach Twila Kilgore.

Five minutes after the half, Smith equalized from outside the area, and eighteen minutes later, after converting a through ball from Trinity Rodman, the second-half substitute, she scored the game’s first goal.

Kilgore stated, “The first goal was just class.” Sometimes people just have unique abilities. Soph scored with his left foot in a packed box; it was a remarkable play, but there was also a strong sense of teamwork involved.”

Although Smith, who plays for the Portland Thorns, prefers to play at No. 9, she began the game on the right wing, a position she has been asked to play frequently in her developing USWNT career. In 2022, she was named the National Women’s Soccer League MVP. In 2023, she was awarded the Golden Boot. Smith was recently awarded the highest annual contract in NWSL history by Portland.

Tuesday, Smith scored her second goal four minutes after switching to her preferred No. 9 position. After switching to an aggressive midfield position, Jaedyn Shaw found the ball centrally. He then pivoted and played a vertical ball to Rodman, who then found a streaking Smith in behind.

Smith agreed that having versatility is advantageous when there are just 18 players on the Olympic roster.

In the stadium tunnel on Tuesday, Smith said, “I just try to do my job when I’m told I need to step up,” holding her tournament MVP medal next to her. “I don’t give that much thought. I take pride in leading this squad in whatever manner I can, and right now that means attempting to put the ball in the back of the net for penalty kicks or during play.

Smith’s efforts were all but squandered by the USWNT. Adriana Leon, a forward for Canada, stepped up to bury a late equalizer from the spot after Crystal Dunn gave away a penalty kick for fouling her. This was exactly 34 days earlier in the 127th minute of the Gold Cup semifinal.

The game on Tuesday ended in a shootout straight away, just like the last encounter. In a thrilling shootout performance, USWNT goalie Alyssa Naeher saved three penalty kicks and scored one herself to help her team win.

After Sophia Smith’s USWNT score against Canada in the SheBelieves Cup, she celebrates. Getty Photographs
“I believe it’s something we invest time in during training,” Naeher remarked of her concentration during shootouts. It’s merely a feature of the game. It’s something we just put a lot of practice into since, regardless of gender, the winner of a World Cup or other competition statistically has a very high rate of have experienced at least one shootout. You become more confidence [as you practice]. We have, I believe, twenty-three players that are willing to stand up and take a shot at any time.”

The eagerly anticipated arrival of head coach Emma Hayes to the USWNT at the end of May marks the team’s next move. Although Hayes completed her ten-year tenure with Chelsea by staying with the club during the European season, she was named the team’s next coach in November.

Kilgore has been assisting Hayes in putting her plans into action in the time before her arrival. Despite a worrying setback to Mexico in the Gold Cup group stage, that process has been successful recently. The United States has won or advanced in five consecutive games since that time, taking home two trophies in less than two months.

“Now we’re just at a point where we are tried, true, battle-tested,” Kilgore stated. “We’re playing five straight games against Olympic-qualifying teams. For context, there is only one more game that advances you to the final.”