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Thorns’ Sophia Smith and Sam Coffey voted for each other for MVP

Sophia Smith and Sam Coffey, center, celebrate a goal with their Portland Thorns teammates. (Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports)

When Sophia Smith and Sam Coffey cast their votes for the NWSL end-of-season awards, the choice was easy.

Both Smith and Coffey are nominated for the MVP award, but they did not vote for themselves. Rather, each Portland Thorns teammate threw their support behind the other, with Coffey voting for Smith and Smith voting for Coffey.

“I already voted for her,” Coffey said, turning to Smith beside her at Friday’s press conference. “I think I put all Thorns, especially you and Morgan (Weaver) were at the top. I don’t know if that’s wrong to do.”

For the MVP award, Smith and Coffey are up against San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma, Kansas City Current forward Debinha and North Carolina Courage forward Kerolin.

Smith is the reigning winner of the award. In 2022, the 23-year-old forward became the youngest winner in NWSL history after scoring 14 goals in 18 appearances. In 2023, she already has won the Golden Boot with a league-leading 11 goals in 17 appearances.

Yet while Smith gets plenty of attention for her scoring touch, she is more than happy to share the spotlight with Coffey, who has excelled for Portland as a defensive midfielder.

“I love to see Sam get the attention and the praise and the respect that she deserves,” Smith said. “As a team, we’ve been seeing this all year, seeing it last year, and I think finally people are seeing it too and realizing how important she is to this team.

“And what she does — I don’t think any other midfielder in the league is doing what she does, and she’s doing it consistently. And that’s a really hard thing to do. So I love to see Sam up for MVP because I think she’s really really worthy of that.”

For her part, Coffey is flattered by the nomination, but she has her sights set on another NWSL Championship. The Thorns won the 2022 title, and they’ll face Gotham FC at 7 p.m. ET Sunday with a shot in the 2023 title game on the line.

“Of course any recognition is is always appreciated,” she said. “But at the end of the day, and I know Soph agrees with me, none of it matters if we don’t get business done on Sunday. And ultimately after that, obviously one thing at a time, but we we have our eyes on the ultimate prize. And so none of these things matter unless that gets done.”