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Sophia Smith returns as Portland Thorns clinch top-2 playoff spot

Sophia Smith is back from a mild MCL sprain.(Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)

Sophia Smith is back.

The Portland Thorns forward, who had not played since Aug. 28 because of a mild MCL strain, returned to the pitch Saturday in the 83rd minute of the Thorns’ game against Gotham FC.

Smith received a standing ovation as she sprinted onto the field of what turned into a 1-0 win for Portland, which clinched a top two spot in the NWSL Playoffs. The Thorns will have a playoff bye and a semifinal home match.

“I was just so proud to be on that field today,” Thorns midfielder Olivia Moultrie told reporters. “We didn’t let ourselves drop for one minute, we went after it the whole time no matter what was going on. We attacked the game, and we stayed together throughout that.”

Despite having missed a little more than a month of action, Smith remains the NWSL’s Golden Boot leader with 11 goals. Two international stars, Kerolin of the North Carolina Courage and Debinha of the Kansas City Current, are right on her heels with 10 and nine goals, respectively.

Smith entered the game with what appeared to be protective tape over her knee, but she appears ready to take on a larger role as the Thorn look toward the postseason.

Portland wraps up the regular season next Sunday against Angel City.