Sophia Smith says it's an 'honor' to represent Northern Colorado with U.S. Soccer team

United States forward Sophia Smith (11) walks onto the field before a game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in 2022.
United States forward Sophia Smith (11) walks onto the field before a game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in 2022.

Sophia Smith and the United States Soccer Women's National Team are in Colorado this week with a lot going on.

The team (known in shorthand as the USWNT) are in the run-up to the Olympics, which begin on July 25 for the Americans.

Tuesday's training session on the University of Colorado campus was the first for the team with new coach Emma Hayes, who just joined up after finishing a distinguished run with Chelsea Football Club in England.

For Smith, a 23-year-old forward on the team, it's another homecoming. She's from Northern Colorado and attended Fossil Ridge High School. She played for the USWNT and scored twice in a 2022 friendly match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

Smith and the team face South Korea at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1 (on TNT) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and Smith could feature in the first lineup under Hayes in front of a sold-out crowd.

Smith, who stars for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL, talked with a number of local media members ahead of Tuesday's training session.

What's it like being back in Colorado?

"It feels great. I have not been home in awhile, so it's good to be back, it's good to be able to train here. This is a beautiful campus, obviously, and it's good to see family. It feels comfortable."

Early impressions of Emma Hayes?

"Emma's awesome. We've had a short amount of time with her so far, but in that short amount of time she's already taught us a lot. She brings a new energy, a new perspective and, obviously a lot of experience. I think we're so lucky to have her. This has been a long time coming. We've been waiting for this day and to finally get on the field with her, I know we're really excited about it."

Does the team have a chip on shoulder heading into the Olympics after early exit in 2023 World Cup?

"This team always has a chip on their shoulder. I think if a team going into the Olympics doesn't have a chip on their shoulder, there's a problem there. This team for so many years has set the standard, has been the best in the world and that's what we want to continue on. We want to honor what this team has done before us but we also want to set new standards and be a different version of this team and be the best in the world and hopefully get things done in the Olympics."

Did you do some research on Hayes to familiarize yourself with her style before she joined?

"Anyone one in the soccer world knows Emma Hayes. She's a legend and her resume speaks for itself. We all trust her. She came in, obviously trust is something you build, but what she has done for the game and for the sport we all trust her and are excited about her. I'm sure we'll learn a lot in the next week. We already have learned a lot in the first few days. It's exciting. We all have an open mind and are welcome to learning and adapting and being flexible."

What's been your biggest growth in the last year?

"A lot. Just having a perspective on things. I feel like I've grown a lot, not only as a player but as a person. Growing up a little bit, figuring things out, being a professional for longer and getting to learn what that takes and what it takes to be consistent. I'm lucky to be on a great team in Portland. I'm lucky to be able to come into camp with these players and just learn and grow in every environment that I can.

Do you get a chance to see family on this trip?

"I came here a few days early, spent some time with family. It's so good to be home. I love Colorado and I love coming home. It's nice to play here, too."

There's been a surge in interest in the WNBA and other women's sports. Where do you feel the progress is at for women's sports?

"We're not there. I think we're finally probably getting close to what we've deserved for a long time, what players before us have deserved. It's really exciting to see the growth of women's sports. It's exciting to see how many people are paying attention to the WNBA now. It's been there all along but it's fun to see that. I think this is really honestly just the start of that. When the WNBA does well, when we do well, we're all boosting each other up and helping each other up and growing women's sports. I think we're in a really great place. I think people are finally paying attention, but I think there's a lot more to come for that.

What's it like getting to represent the USWNT in front of youth teams close to where you grew up playing?

"I love coming back to where I grew up and where I started playing. I think it's so important to give back to the community that helped me become who I am. Whenever I can come here and play in front of the young kids that are growing up where I grew up and playing for the same club or what have you, I think for me it's an honor and it's something I don't take lightly. I just hope to be a role model for those kids and to show them it doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from, you can accomplish the goals and dreams you have. You just have to work for it and if I can embody that, I feel like I've won."

Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on X and Instagram @Kevin_Lytle.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Sophia Smith says it's an 'honor' to represent Northern Colorado with U.S. Soccer team