Sophia Smith
Carmen Mandato—Getty Images for USSF

Even since American soccer star Sophia Smith was a young player growing up in Colorado, she had a nose for the back of the net. “I just have that constant hunger to score,” says Smith. “It’s not even something I’m consciously thinking about. It just clicks in my body.” Smith, the Portland Thorns FC forward, led the National Women’s Soccer League in goals entering September, with 11. At the World Cup this summer, she scored two goals and assisted on the other in the U.S. team’s 3-0 opening-game win over Vietnam.

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Smith’s World Cup did end on a down note: she missed a penalty shoot-out kick against Sweden that could have pushed the Americans through to the quarterfinals (Sweden eventually prevailed). This setback, however, allows her to inspire fans in a different way. “You don’t let those moments completely define who you are,” says Smith. “When something doesn’t go your way, you can let it take you down, or you learn and grow from that moment and be better from it. I’m choosing that route.”

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