After the thrilling semifinal at Providence Park on Sunday, the league announced that Portland Thorns players Sophia Smith and Sam Coffey were named to the Best XI First Team, while centerbacks Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelli Hubly made it to the Best XI Second Team.
The 2022 @mastercard Best XI teams are on another LEVEL— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 25, 2022
Sam Coffey has had a stellar year in her rookie season with the Thorns. Although she played in an attacking position at college, the 23 year-old adapted very well to her new defensive midfielder role, convincing coach Wilkinson to make her a starter in that part of the field. After 20 games played, the rookie registered the highest number of interceptions on the team (38) and has been instrumental in Portland’s defense. The midfielder showed that she can also play a role in the attack, and has also contributed 33 key passes, two assists, and one goal on the year. It’s no wonder why Coffey is also nominated for the Rookie of the Year award.
Sophia Smith needs no introduction by this point of the year — but it’s good to remember how she was a contender for the Golden Boot award, finishing the season with 14 goals and three assists. Smith’s year will be hard to forget since she established a new goal scoring record for the club. Her 14 goals surpassed Lindsey Horan’s record of 13 goals she scored in the 2018 season. She also led the league in dribbles with 46 and most shots on target with 49. Also nominated for the league’s MVP award, the young striker had a dream season.
Becky Sauerbrunn having a good year is common by this point for the UWSNT captain and league veteran. Even at 37, she is another example of how age is just a number. Becky helped the Thorns to finish with a total of nine shoutouts, the most in the league. The center-back has already won the Defender of the Year award on four previous occasions, and this year could mark the fifth time she receives such an honor and she’s been named a finalist for the award yet again. Oh, and how can we forget her celebration after her first goal as a Thorn this season?
Kelli Hubly’s journey is an outstanding one. It’s a story that can inspire people to always put in the effort because in the end, it will be rewarded. And the fact that she has been recognized makes the result of all her hard work even sweeter. She’s already in Portland’s history books after playing all 22 matches for the club this season, making her only the seventh player in the league to achieve such a milestone. Oh, and unlike the other three Thorns already mentioned, Hubly already has a Championship cup under her belt (2017). Will she get her second on Saturday?
“I was shocked. I couldn’t even believe it. I’m just like super proud and like super excited to get recognized. It’s an honor. I’m super grateful,” Hubly said about her recognition. “The beginning was hard. I told my parents I’d give it a year and by the end of the year, I saw tremendous growth so I said to myself ‘okay, I’m gonna come back again’ and that’s when I earned my roster spot. I’ve been working for five and a half years behind the scenes. For three years, sometimes I even didn’t dress [for the matchday squad]! So it didn’t happen over night and it’s just like proving all the hard work I’ve been doing is been worth it,” she concluded about her journey.
Portland Thorns will play in the NWSL Championship game against Kansas City Current on Saturday October 29, at Audi Field in Washington, DC. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Pacific, and will be broadcast on CBS.