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Sophia Smith leads USWNT into critical clash with Dutch

The U.S. women's national team is in a position to win a record third straight World Cup because every player who steps on the field is expected to meet the high standards of their predecessors.

Sophia Smith is the latest example of a potential legend in the making, following in the footsteps of players such as Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach and current teammate Alex Morgan.

Smith, coming off a two-goal, one-assist performance in a 3-0 win over Vietnam on Friday in her World Cup debut, will be at the center of attention when the Americans (1-0-0, 3 points) face the Netherlands (1-0-0, 3 points) in a critical Group E match on Wednesday in Wellington, New Zealand.

The U.S. lineup against Vietnam featured five players who were part of the 2019 World Cup championship squad that defeated the Dutch 2-0 in the final, plus six debutantes. The average age of 27.8 was the youngest lineup for the USWNT at a World Cup since 2007. Smith, 22, looked like a veteran against the overwhelmed Vietnamese but knows the Netherlands will provide a stern test.

"Personally, it was good to just get a World Cup game under my belt and see how it felt," she said. "I think it honestly just makes me more excited for the next game."

Smith's boyfriend is half New Zealander. His mother is from Wellington and will bring a large cheering section.

The Dutch were happy with a 1-0 win against Portugal on Sunday because it sets them up to likely join the Americans in advancing out of the group to the Round of 16.

"Winning this game was the most important thing by far," Netherlands coach Andries Jonker said. "We are not afraid of the USA, but this was the most important game, and Portugal proved they were a difficult opponent."

The match against the U.S. could determine who tops the group.

"It's going to be a whole new game, a whole new challenge," Smith said. "We know it's going to be tough, but those are the games that we love to play."

(Field Level Media)

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