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NWSL Golden Boot race: Ashley Hatch gains on Sophia Smith

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Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch scored her ninth goal of the season on a penalty kick. (Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL Golden Boot race is tightening, with Ashley Hatch closing in on league leader Sophia Smith.

While Smith scored her 11th goal of the season for the Portland Thorns last week to extend her lead, Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch made up ground this week. That, combined with the fact that Smith went down with an injury in the Thorns’ 1-1 draw with the Spirit, means the race could tighten even further in the coming weeks.

Trending upward: Ashley Hatch (9 goals)

Hatch hasn’t slowed down since the NWSL returned from the World Cup break. As a matter of fact, she didn’t slow down during the break, as the USWNT snub had a great showing in the Challenge Cup — but those goals don’t count toward the Golden Boot.

The 28-year-old forward helped the Spirit avoid the loss Sunday, pulling the team level with a penalty kick goal in stoppage time to secure a 1-1 draw.

The 2021 Golden Boot winner already has matched her career-high for goals in a season, and she is trending upward as we head into the final five games of the season.

Dark horse: Lynn Williams (7 goals)

Williams’ total puts her four goals off the lead, but she still is producing at an elite level for Gotham FC. Her .45 goals per 90 (xG) is good for fourth in the league, and she has recorded 65 shots, 29 of them on target, which puts her second in the league in both categories. She also is generating 2.17 shots on target per game – one of just two players above 2.0 in the NWSL. Smith is the other at 3.04.

What does Williams need to do in order to push into the center of the Golden Boot conversation? Convert those shots into goals. And that shouldn’t be difficult for the USWNT star as she recalibrates after the international break.

NWSL leaderboard

  • 11 goals
    • Sophia Smith, Portland Thorns
  • 9 goals
    •  Ashley Hatch, Washington Spirit
  •  8 goals
    • Kerolin, North Carolina Courage
  • 7 goals
    • Lynn Williams, Gotham FC
  • 6 goals
    • Messiah Bright, Orlando Pride
    • Debinha, Kansas City Current
  • 5 goals
    • Bethany Balcer, OL Reign
    • Savannah DeMelo, Racing Louisville
    • Crystal Dunn, Portland Thorns
    • Cece Kizer, Kansas City Current
    • Tyler Lussi, North Carolina Courage
    • Alex Morgan, San Diego Wave
    • Ashley Sanchez, Washington Spirit
    • Morgan Weaver, Portland Thorns