Sophia Smith of the Portland Thorns, Colorado is a rising star on the United States women’s soccer team

Century, Colorado – The name Sophia Smith has been popular with the soccer scouts of America for some time. She broke into the US youth national team arena when she was 16 years old in 2016, and she was still that age when she got her first US call-up the following year.

So there was a lot of waiting for her arrival time.

Well, it is here now. American coach Vlatko Andonovsky named the 21-year-old striker as his starting right winger earlier this month, and Smith has been fanning the flames of the NWSL defenses all year. She has 11 goals and assists in 14 games for the Portland Thorns, including a two-goal outing in each of her last two games.

This week, Smith returned to her home country of Colorado with the US national team, in preparation for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship which will serve as the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics qualifiers.

After a few days of training camp, the United States will play Colombia in a set of two games starting Saturday (7:30 p.m., FS1) in Commerce City, Colorado, a suburb of Denver south of Smith’s hometown of Windsor.

» READ MORE: Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe return to the US women’s soccer team for World Cup and Olympics qualifiers

When Andonovsky named the 23-man championship squad, he called Smith and left winger Mallory Pugh—accidentally by another Colorado—started “the most exciting player to watch right now in the league.”

“I don’t think it would be a surprise if I said it would be very difficult for a player to go in and take the starting points at the moment,” Andonovsky said. “These two players will be enjoying a lot of minutes on the field – in fact, they will be enjoying the most minutes on the pitch.”

Smith plays more central for her club than she does for her country, and has been raised as a striker rather than a winger. The change of situation at times caused inconvenience to some American fans. But it happened because it makes sense for Smith to play the creative talent of Catarina Macario, who plays in the striker’s space but isn’t a purely traditional striker.

So how will Smith cope with Alex Morgan, who is more than just a classic striker?

The answer ended up being obvious: These guys are good enough and smart enough to make it work.

“I think we are all ourselves and [will] “Be ourselves no matter who’s playing on the front lines,” Smith said. “I think every player ranked 9 is different in their own ways, and they are all great. And I think [it’s] Just building on it and building those relationships, you just need to figure out how best we can work together in the field, regardless of the three that are there.”

Read more: Brianna Scurry supports Alyssa Naher and Trinity Rodman with USWNT, but Flatko Andonovsky questions

Perhaps it won’t be of much importance in the upcoming CONCACAF Women’s Championship, which will be World Cup and Olympic qualifiers. The United States is way better than just about every team you’ll face. But it’s still a useful question.

There certainly wouldn’t be any questions about whether they got along. After the two players fought twice in their NWSL games last Sunday, Smith politely asked Morgan on Twitter to “slow downnnnnn” with an accompanying emoji with a weary face. “Oh my God coming from the bra-queen!! Score these playoffs, thanks,” replied Morgan, with a princess emoji and a kissed face.

“It’s really exciting to have someone go after him—and it’s Alex Morgan, of course,” Smith said. “It’s a friendly competition. It’s obviously great to score goals, but my team’s doing well is even better. This league is just fun – it’s fun to have people score so many goals.”

(It’s also no coincidence that Morgan’s San Diego Wave and Smith’s Portland Thorns are the top two teams in the standings.)

Smith is one of four Coloradan players in the US squad, along with Beau, Lindsey Horan, and Jaylene Howell. It’s an impressive tally for a state with a rich youth football scene, especially in suburban Denver. Smith joked that others say she’s “mainly from Wyoming” because they’re close to the city, a sentiment Philadelphia residents can appreciate, too.

All four locals will have plenty of friends and family in the stands on Saturday, as part of an anticipated sale crowd at the 18,000-seat Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. There were only a few hundred tickets left until Tuesday afternoon for the first game for the US women’s team here in three years.

“People want to watch women’s football here in Colorado,” Smith said. “I think this is a great place to watch that, and for us to perform so we hope we can get the NWSL team here.”

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