The U.S. women's national team embarked on their quest for an unprecedented FIFA Women's World Cup three-peat with a victorious start, thanks to the standout performance of a newcomer to the squad.
In her inaugural World Cup appearance, Sophia Smith stole the show, netting two goals and providing an assist as the USWNT secured a convincing 3-0 win against Vietnam at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Friday night. Captain Lindsey Horan spoke highly of Smith's abilities, telling reporters, via AP, "Soph Smith, look what she did. She does that every single day in training, so it’s no shock to me. But it’s always great to have the first game to really calm everyone’s nerves and get the three points." Playing for the NWSL's Portland Thorns, Smith made her mark early in the 2023 WWC. In the 14th minute, Alex Morgan skillfully delivered a one-touch pass into the box, overcoming a defender, and Smith confidently struck the ball with her left foot to beat the goalkeeper, opening the scoring for the Americans. Initially, the goal was called offside, but after a review, it was rightly awarded, giving the USWNT a 2-0 halftime lead. This followed moments after the team missed the chance to lead 2-0 when Morgan's penalty kick was denied. Smith expressed her admiration for teammate Lindsey, saying, "I love playing with Lindsey, she’s such a great player. She has such a good eye for things that a lot of players don’t see. She understands my game. She understands the runs I’m making before I even make them." While the final score wasn't as lopsided as anticipated, the Americans dominated the match, outshooting Vietnam by an impressive 27-0 margin, with 24 shots taken inside the penalty area and eight on target. Looking ahead, the USWNT aims to improve their effectiveness in the final third as they continue their group stage journey with a clash against the Netherlands on Wednesday—a much-anticipated rematch of the 2019 WWC final.