Windsor native Sophia Smith wins 2022 NWSL MVP, becoming youngest-ever to earn honor The Denver Post

Sophia Smith is in elite company.

On Thursday, the 22-year-old Windsor native and Portland Thorns superstar was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2022 NWSL season. She became the youngest-ever in league history to win the award, as she scored a club-record 14 goals and added three assists.

She also became the second Colorado native to be named MVP, joining Golden’s Lindsey Horan, who won the award with Portland in 2018.

In the vote, San Diego Wave forward Alex Morgan finished second and North Carolina Courage’s Debinha finished third.

While it will be her name on the MVP trophy, in her opening remarks at the podium Thursday, Smith credited those around her who helped make her season such a success.

“I literally would not be getting this award if I did not have the best team in the world,” she said. “I genuinely love every single one of you and I couldn’t do anything without you guys. Thank you for constantly supporting me, letting me be ‘Soph’. And the staff, thank you for just supporting and believing in me — this means a lot to me.”

The 2020 No. 1 overall pick from Stanford and Real Colorado product has had a breakout campaign as she helped lead the Thorns to their fourth NWSL Championship appearance. Portland will look to earn a third championship star Saturday against the Kansas City Current in Washington D.C.

Between both teams, there are six players from Colorado in the final. Attendance at Audi Field is expected to be close to a sell-out. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. MDT and will be available to watch over-the-air on KCNC-4 in Denver.

Smith became known as “the brace queen” after scoring two goals in a match, also known as a “brace,” on four occasions — which is tied for the most in a single season. She is currently second in the league in scoring behind Golden Boot winner Morgan (16 goals), a fellow U.S. Women’s National Team forward.

Her elite finishing was on display often in the opening half of games, as she scored Portland’s first goal five times. She also had a five-match scoring streak from June 8 to Aug. 5. The sheer volume of on-ball action has led to NWSL high-marks in shots (76) and shots on goal (49) while also accounting for nearly one third of the Thorns’ shots on target.

At the international level, she has scored 10 times for the USWNT in 2022, including a two-goal game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park against Colombia in June.

Also a finalist for the MVP award for the first time was Highlands Ranch native Mallory Pugh of the Chicago Red Stars. She scored 11 goals and had six assists as she helped her team reach the quarterfinals.

San Diego, which lost last Saturday in the semifinals on a dramatic stoppage-time winning goal by the Thorns, swept every other major award category. Smith’s Stanford colleague Naomi Girma won both Rookie and Defender of the Year, while the new expansion side also claimed Goalkeeper of the Year (Kailen Sheridan) and Coach of the Year (Casey Stoney).

MVP voting was decided by 50% from the players, 20% from league technical staff, 20% from the media and 10% from the fans.

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