In 2014, Mallory Pugh was the youngest player on the U.S. Under-20 Women’s World Cup Team, but still started all four games in Canada before the USA was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Korea DPR. Now, a bit older, more experienced and wiser, Pugh leads the USA into Qualifying for the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup as the most experienced player on the roster. ussoccer.com sat down with Pugh in San Pedro Sula, Honduras where the USA is preparing for the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship.
ussoccer.com: Now that you’ve arrived in Honduras, what’s the mood of the group and how excited are you all to get this tournament underway?
Mallory Pugh: “I think everyone is just super excited. Only a few people get this opportunity and I think what we need to do is just make the most of it and get the job done, and while we’re doing it just have fun.”
ussoccer.com: You were with the U-20 WNT in the last edition of this tournament as the youngest player; now you’re back with experience and ready for another go. How is your role different this time, and what do you hope to bring to the table?
MP: “I feel like my role is to make sure the team chemistry is on point. Obviously that will translate onto the field and if we’re all comfortable together I think great things can happen through that. I really try to just be positive with everyone. I think it’s really important for everyone to bond. We’ve had a lot of different ages coming through and I think the chemistry of everyone throughout the camps is really important. That’s something I take into my hands. If someone’s not being included in something I try to grab them under my wing and help them. We’re a young team but I think most of us know each other from past camps and even over the past four days all of us have gotten along really well and I just feel like this chemistry is going very well.”
ussoccer.com: What sort of challenges do you expect from the CONCACAF opponents in this tournament?
MP: “I really think that every team in this tournament is going to be a challenge for us and each team has their own style of play. So our biggest thing will be knowing how they play beforehand and knowing wat they’re going to do is really important so we’re prepared for it.”
ussoccer.com: You were a part of the group that came down to Honduras in September. How does that experience help prepare you for this tournament?
MP: “It was a lot of fun. Being in Honduras and in this environment definitely gives us an advantage going into this tournament. We got a chance to get used to the hotel, the Wi-Fi, the food and just get that experience that prepared us for these coming weeks.”
Pugh races down the sideline in the U-20 WNT's group match against Brazil at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada. The U.S. won the match 1-0.
ussoccer.com: How tight of a group is this team?
MP: “We’re a team that has a lot of fun and that’s one of my favorite things about coming into camp. You get to spend time with people you don’t see every day and we call each other best friends; it’s something that not a lot of people get to do. The laughter and the silliness and everything in between is just great.”
ussoccer.com: You had the opportunity to train with the senior Women’s National Team this year. How was that experience for you?
MP: “I think when I played for the senior team it was just their communication on the field that stood out to me a lot and I think translating that onto this team is a really important thing because it helps me and it helped them and everyone knew what they were doing. It’s just a huge experience.”
ussoccer.com: What is it like to put on the crest and know you’re representing the whole country when you play?
MP: “Putting on the crest is just a huge honor. Not everybody gets to do it. We’ve all worked really hard for this moment. For some of us this is our first main world event, but that just makes it even more inspiring to be in this position. We’re just working really hard and we know that work has been really important leading up to this tournament. Every time you step on the field wearing the crest it’s just such an honor and it really makes you want to give it your all. You’re playing for you country, your family and you’re playing for past players that have been in your position as well as younger players that you hope to inspire.”