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NWSL Golden Boot: Sophia Smith in lead despite 40-day absence

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(Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports)

Sophia Smith returned to NWSL play over the weekend. And while she didn’t score a goal to extend her lead in the NWSL Golden Boot race, nobody within striking distance of her 11-goal tally did either.

There’s just one game remaining in the regular season, meaning that Kerolin would need to score a brace in order to secure the Golden Boot. Both Ashley Hatch and Debinha would need a hat trick, as Smith’s five assists still put her ahead in the tiebreak.

The Portland Thorns star entered her team’s 1-0 win over Gotham FC on Saturday in the 83rd minute, marking her first NWSL appearance in 41 days after suffering a mild MCL sprain on Aug. 28. And she’s returned in a good place, with Portland atop the NWSL rankings and her atop the Golden Boot race.

Add a point: Debinha

Debinha was one of six players to get in on the scoring onslaught for Kansas City in their 6-3 win over Chicago on Saturday. Debinha’s goal was the team’s fourth of the match and came just after halftime. It was also the ninth of the season for the Brazilian star, pulling her into a tie for third with Hatch.

No other Golden Boot leaders scored over the weekend, making the race for the award a bit clearer as the NWSL heads into the final games of the regular season.

One for the future: Alyssa Thompson

While 18-year-old Jaedyn Shaw leads all teenagers this season in scoring, another 18-year-old provided an immediate and much-needed boost for Angel City in their 2-1 comeback win on Sunday night. Thompson’s goal in the 68th minute, coming not long after after she entered the game as a substitute, pulled Angel City level and set them up to keep their playoff hopes alive.

It also added to a record-breaking season for teenagers in the league, with players 18 and younger scoring 13 total goals in 2023, more than the goals scored by that age group in 10 years combined. Shaw leads them all with five, but Thompson now has four — which also makes her Angel City’s scoring leader this season.

NWSL leaderboard

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