Sophia Smith celebrates her first goal with Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez looking at the ball entering the net. (John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Just bring it on, says Sophia Smith.
The U.S. women’s national team striker showed how well she plays under pressure on Saturday night. With the Americans needed goals to break open a close game, she thrived on it, scoring the first two in the 3-0 international friendly victory over Colombia in Commerce City, Colo.
“I think always pressure is a privilege,” Smith told FS1. “I think it’s a privilege to be able to compete against such high-level players every day in camp. If it makes it harder to get a starting spot, that’s good for everybody. It’s only making us better. I trust every single player we have on this on this roster to go out and play and perform. It’s a great thing to have that.”
Smith, who hails from Windsor, Colo., about an hour’s drive from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver, turned a scoreless deadlock into a two-goal advantage for the USA as she tallied in the 54th and 60th minutes.
The hosts played sloppily in the opening half as Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez made several saves, including stopping Lindsey Horan’s 45th-minute penalty kick.
Asked what head coach Vlatko Andonovski said to the team at halftime, Smith replied, “The biggest thing was just to remain calm and not to panic. I think we knew that once we put one away, they would keep coming. We just had to stay consistent and continue connecting passes and creating chances and just trust each other and trust that the goals would come.”
Which they did.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle, the Bronze Ball winner at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, set up both of Smith’s goal with by turning Colombian possession into U.S. goals. It was part of a triangle that the Americans work on in practice every day, Smith said.
“It’s a matter of building those relationships on and off the field and you saw it today,” she said. “The chemistry is getting better and better each game. We just need to continue to work on that. Rose is an unbelievable player. Everyone knows that and she gave me two great passes tonight. So, credit to her.”
Playing with Lavelle certainly has aided the 21-year-old Smith in several ways.
“It just helps me,” she said. “I can look to Rose for advice and for energy and for anything that I may need on the field. She’s been here on the stage for a long time now. So, it’s really helpful to have someone like Rose to look over to and rely on during these games.”