As Sophia Smith goes, the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team goes. The Stanford-bound striker scored two goals and set-up two more goals on Thursday as the USA cruised to a 6-0 win over Paraguay in a must-win game from the 2018 U20 World Cup in France. Savannah DeMelo scored twice for USA. Ashley Sanchez added the other goal as the all-Pac-12 threat reign supreme against the Paraguay defense.
Smith’s opening goal came in the 15th minute when she took on most of the Paraguay defense on her own. She combined with UCLA Viviana Villacorta to create some space, but did the rest of the work on her own and drilled a shot home with her left foot.
Smith drilled a shot off the Paraguay goalkeeper later in the half, USC midfielder Savannah DeMelo pounced on the rebound and scored her first goal of the game. DeMelo added another goal right before half when she finished off a cross from Erin Gilroy to give USA a 3-0 lead at the break.
USA started brightly in the second half. Smith broke free down the right flank. She picked up her head and found the run of Sanchez for the easy finish as USA raced out to the 4-0 lead early in the second half.
Smith added another goal midway through the second half off a tremendous assist from Villacorta. Smith was taken off in the 73rd minute to preserve her legs for the group finale on Monday.
DeMelo completed her hat trick in the 78th minute for the final goal of the game. Substitutes Penelope Hocking and Abigail Kim set-up the chance for DeMelo to finish for the sixth goal of the game.
It was an enjoyable performance from USA as the game wore on. The group grew in confidence and continued to find success through Smith. With no defensive responsibilities holding her back, DeMelo was a terror in the midfield. Left back Tara McKeown had a strong showing from the back line.
USA took care of business against the weakest opponent in the group, and now attention turns to Monday’s game against Spain. USA sits in second place in the group, thanks to a plus-five goal differential, headed to the clash against Spain, who defeated Japan 1-0 on Thursday.
As a Federation that has never failed to advance from group play at the U20 World Cup, there is a considerably amount of pressure on this team to get a positive result against Spain, the group leader, on Monday.