Thorns’ Olivia Moultrie, 16, becomes youngest goalscorer in NWSL history

Olivia Moultrie made history on Sunday night by becoming the youngest goalscorer in National Women’s Soccer League history.

The 16-year-old scored in the 74th minute for the Portland Thorns, the third goal in a 4-0 rout of the Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Sophia Smith took advantage of a careless turnover from Houston in their own final third and squared the ball for Moultrie, who tapped home her historic first goal.

“Obviously, I’m extremely excited to be able to score my first goal, but more importantly just how big of a win that was for us as a team and what we’ve been working on,” Moultrie said afterward. “All around, just a very exciting moment.”

The teenager, who was a late addition to the starting lineup after captain Christine Sinclair felt tightness in a muscle during warmups, eclipsed a NWSL record previously held by Ellie Carpenter, who had just turned 18 when she scored for the Thorns in a 2018 match.

“She plays well beyond her years,” Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson said. “She’s had frustrating moments where she just wants to play. She’s a young player who just wants opportunity, and obviously with the last-minute change in the lineup, she got it. Just professional right from the start. Did the work defensively, made some very important tackles for us on the ball, kept it, kept finding the opposite side, and then got in the box and what an unselfish play by Sophia Smith [on the goal].”

Moultrie, who made headlines by turning professional and signing a deal with Nike when she was 13, filed a lawsuit against the NWSL last year asserting that she should be able to play despite a rule prohibiting players under 18.

The suit alleged that the league’s age rule violated antitrust law and hindered Moultrie’s career development and chances of reaching the US national team.

US district judge Karin J Immergut granted a preliminary injunction allowing her to play in June 2021, and Moultrie eventually reached a settlement with the league.

She became the youngest player to appear in a NWSL match when she made her debut on July 2021 against Racing Louisville, before scoring in a Women’s International Champions Cup friendly the following month.

The Thorns acquired the rights to Moultrie from OL Reign, the first team on the NWSL Discovery Priority list, in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NWSL draft.