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Sophia Smith has bright USWNT future despite World Cup penalty miss

Sophia Smith reacts to her missed penalty kick in the USWNT’s shootout loss to Sweden. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Sophia Smith is the present and the future of the U.S. women’s national team, and her missed penalty in Sunday’s shootout loss to Sweden doesn’t take away from that.

The 22-year-old forward’s shot sailed wide of the net, denying the USWNT of a chance to win the shootout in the fifth round. Sweden went on to win in the seventh. Yet while Smith likely will relive that moment in the coming months, she also can use it as fuel, making her even more dangerous for international and club opponents alike.

Nobody is concerned about the rising star bouncing back, including Jamaica head coach Lorne Donaldson, who coached Smith during her youth career in Colorado.

“What happened to Sophia, it’s just, she has to grow from it. I’ve coached her for a long time, and you never want to see that happen to one of your kids,” he said. “It did happen, and I’ve heard back from her. I was at the game. And I’m sure that Sophia, knowing her, she will rebound from it and she’ll be just fine. Because she’s a great human being.”

Still, the sting of the miss remains. Her U.S. teammates know that, and they comforted her after the match.

“I know she’s going to be hurting about this. But in time, she’ll realize that it’s just a game,” USWNT defender and Smith’s Portland Thorns teammate Crystal Dunn said. “I think she was ready for that moment. I’m proud of her for stepping up in that place. And I think, for her, she’s so young, she has so much more to give this game, and I think she’ll look back on this moment and just be like, you know, it was another moment in my career.”

After all, Smith stood out as one of the bright spots for the USWNT in a disappointing World Cup run. She had a brace in the team’s opener against Vietnam, and she consistently created chances when she could.

Her impact will be felt as she helps to grow the game for the next generation. At just 22 years old, she already has 14 goals through 34 international appearances. While the penalty kick is a big miss, the fate of the USWNT does not – and should not – rest on her shoulders alone.

Lindsey Horan offered words of wisdom to Smith, noting that even “some of the best players in the world miss PKs.” Horan herself recently missed one in a Champions League match against Chelsea.

“Everyone misses. It sucks. Absolutely sucks,” she said. “But you’ve got to remember this is part of football. You get back up and it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt for forever. … Soph will get through it. She’s strong. She’s strong willed and she’s one of the best players in the world right now at her age. She’s going to be perfectly fine.”

And even after the miss, Smith’s teammates would choose her to take another penalty.

“We’ve all seen Soph play,” Naomi Girma said. “There’s so much ahead of her. I think we saw a glimpse of it in this World Cup. You see it week in and week out in the NWSL. … This is just the beginning for her and she’s going to have a lot more big moments. And every single time, I’m going back to her to be the one to take the shot.”

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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