The Thorns also traded for the second overall pick Thursday and selected Morgan Weaver from Washington State. The Orlando Pride took Taylor Kornieck from the University of Colorado with the third overall pick.
A sophomore at Stanford, Smith declared for the draft with two years of college eligibility left. When asked what she would say to a younger self, tears of joy filled her eyes.
“That I am proud of her just for following her heart,” Smith said. “This is the best time for me to take that next step and change a chapter in my life.”
“Knowing that people have done it before me helped my decision a lot,” Smith said. “Me doing this, Ashley Sanchez doing this, it just sets the standards for a lot of girls.”
Sanchez, a UCLA forward, declared for the draft with a year of eligibility available. The Spirit traded with Sky Blue for the No. 4 overall pick and selected Sanchez.
“The league is growing as a whole and I think that people can see that it is an amazing place to play soccer,” Smith said.
Last season, Smith scored 17 goals and recorded nine assists and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the College Cup where Stanford defeated the University of North Carolina on penalty kicks in the final.
Both Sanchez and Smith had options to leave school early and go overseas, but chose instead to join a domestic league that is expanding and is closer to home.
Prior to the draft, Portland traded national team midfielder Emily Sonnett, the rights to Caitlin Foord and two early round picks to Orlando in anticipation of selecting Smith.
Before traveling to Baltimore for the draft, Smith was with Sonnett and U.S. Women’s National Team in Tampa, Fla. as part of a 28-player roster for the annual January training camp. She knew ahead of time the Thorns would select her, but kept her excitement levels down.
“I didn’t talk too much about it because I know there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that I don’t know about,” Smith said. “It was awesome to be in camp and talk to the girls about everything and have them for support.”
Newly appointed USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski has a background in NWSL, but did not have the ultimate influence on Smith’s decision.
“I think a lot of people thought that [he did], Smith said. “But ultimately it was about following my heart and doing what was best for me.”