United States women's national team and Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith's knee injury is a mild medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain in her right knee and her status is week-to-week, her club announced on Wednesday. She picked up the injury against the Washington Spirit on Sunday.
Smith exited the field under her own power just before halftime but was later seen with her knee wrapped in ice and on crutches throughout the remainder of the match. Forward Hannah Betfort subbed on for the injured Smith and Portland walked away with a 1-1 draw against the Spirit. They are still in first place on the league table as the playoff hunt is in full swing.
The 2022 NWSL MVP attempted a challenge on the ball and her knee connected with the grass on heavy impact. The week 17 fixture was her first start back from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. She scored the game-winner as a substitute against North Carolina Courage on Aug. 20 and the team lept back into first place with the victory.
The goal was Smith's 11th of the 2023 season and has her firmly in the lead of the Golden Boot race. Spirit striker Ashley Hatch is in second with nine goals and North Carolina Courage forward Kerolin is in third with eight goals.
How this impacts Portland
Portland has the deepest bench in the league and is built to sustain unpredictable injuries. Smith's attacking partner Morgan Weaver scored the lone goal against the Spirit, and Betfort has emerged as another scoring option after being with the club since 2021. Neither of them are Smith of course, her 0.56 expected goals per 90 minutes is second only to the Spirit's Ashley Hatch in the NWSL this season (among players with over 500 minutes). Sill Weaver is in the top 10 at 0.35, ninth overall, and Betfort is also at 0.35, albeit in only 182 minutes played.
There are just five weeks remaining in the regular season and the 2023 NWSL Shield and playoff positioning is still on the line. The team is in a good position to secure the top spot but any extended loss of the reigning MVP and top goal scorer in the league is a massive blow no matter how deep the bench.