Only Getting Started
Unlike Press and McCaffrey, 17-year-old Mallory Pugh is what could be considered a veteran of the Youth National Team circuit. She was one of the top scorers in her U-17 WNT cycle and was named to the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup roster when she was just 16 years old. She is currently the U-20 WNT captain and most recently led the way for the USA at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in Honduras, helping the team win the title and secure a berth to the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup. And along the way she earned the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as the top scorer and top player of the tournament.
Despite her young age, Pugh is no stranger to coming up big during important moments. Her experiences have helped her mature faster, handle herself well, and understand the responsibilities that come with playing at the next level. It’s one of the many reasons the 17-year old was chosen to captain a team with several players who are older than her. It’s also not surprising why Pugh received her first invitation to the senior WNT camp just days after winning the CONCACAF title in Honduras.
“I remember I had just gotten back from Honduras and I was at the airport in Denver about to go home, and I checked my email and there it was,” said Pugh. “I was super excited and more nervous than anything. But it was a great opportunity and I was excited.”
A few weeks later, Pugh was off to California to join 26 senior WNT players at the 2016 January Camp. She knew some of the players, as they had been on youth teams together, but in general this was a whole new ball game for the youngster. At first, she will admit, it was rather intimidating. The speed of play was blazing and some of the players were 10 or more years older than her.
“This was different than what I was used to,” admitted Pugh. “I was nervous, oh yeah. I remembered walking into the meal room and just seeing everyone and just thinking, ‘oh my gosh, this is so weird.’ I was just quiet, but then as the week went on, and the soccer came along, everything came together and I loosened up.”
After three weeks of intense training, the U.S. women made the trip to San Diego to face the Republic of Ireland in their first friendly of the year. Pugh was told she would suit up, but she had no idea if she would see the field. Knowing it was her first time at a senior camp, her first time being involved at the senior level, she felt ok okay if she didn’t play. Maybe it wasn’t her time just yet.
But her moment came 58 minutes into the contest.
The referee raised her flag to announce a USA substitution and it was forward Alex Morgan who began jogging off the field. Morgan, who had scored earlier in the match, was celebrating her 100th game with the WNT, while Pugh was about to enter her first, a sweet contrast between two important moments in the career of two players, one reaching the century mark, and the other becoming the youngest player to debut for the U.S. WNT since 2005.
Pugh entered the match, got a touch on the ball and allowed the excitement she was feeling to overpower the nerves. Having her teammates around was important to her. They gave her an extra boost of confidence she didn’t know she needed. A few weeks prior she was guiding the U-20s and now the reigning World Cup champions were guiding her.
Then Pugh etched her name in the record books. In the 83rd minute, Christen Press hit a chipped cross assist that was headed home on a slashing run into the box by the 5-foot-4 Pugh. She became the youngest player to score for the U.S. in the last 16 years and the most recent addition to the first cap, first goal club.
“I don’t really remember how the goal happened,” said Pugh. “It was so fast, but I do remember not even looking to see if it went in. I just heard the crowd go crazy and I ran straight to Press. The fact that she scored on her first cap and I did too… I could just tell when I hugged her that she understood what had happened. She had the biggest smile on her face because she had been there and had done that too.”
It wasn’t just Press who was smiling. Everyone hoped they had witnessed the beginning of a special career.
CHICAGO (November 22, 2016) – U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Bruce Arena as the new head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The most decorated head coach in American soccer history, Arena most famously guided the U.S. to its best finish in the World Cup in more than 80 years with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002 and returns to the job where he amassed the most wins of any coach in U.S. MNT history.
Arena, who will assume the role on Thursday, Dec. 1, will be formally introduced during a teleconference with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” said Gulati. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth-straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
“Any time you get the opportunity to coach the National Team it’s an honor,” said Arena. “I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex. Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”
The Most Accomplished Coach in U.S. MNT History
Arena steps back into the job that he held over an eight-year tenure from 1998-2006. With a record of 71-30-29, the Brooklyn-born manager is by far the winningest coach in U.S. MNT history as well as the only head coach to lead the USA at two FIFA World Cups.
His crowning achievement came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, where he led the MNT to a 3-2 upset of Portugal in their opening match before advancing out of the group and earning a 2-0 shutout against Mexico in the Round of 16. Benefiting from the experience of his previous World Cup Qualifying campaign, the U.S. MNT advanced to the 2006 FIFA World Cup with relative ease, booking a place in Germany with three matches to spare in CONCACAF’s Final Round. Drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, a nine-man U.S. squad put in a gutsy performance to earn a 1-1 draw against eventual World Cup champions Italy.
Arena also led the U.S. to its second and third regional titles with championships at the 2002 and 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cups, as well as a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A History of Success
Beyond his National Team tenure, Arena has found success along every stop of his 40-plus year coaching career. The Long Island native won five NCAA Division 1 National Championships with the University of Virginia, including a still-standing record of four-straight from 1991-94.
His collegiate coaching tenure led him to his first international job, taking the reins of the U.S. U-23 team leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta where Arena guided the USA to a respectable 1-1-1 showing. Arena balanced his U-23 duties with his head coaching role of D.C. United in the inaugural year of Major League Soccer and helped to turn the club into the nascent league’s first true powerhouse. D.C. won four domestic titles on Arena’s watch – the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups, 1996 U.S. Open Cup and 1997 Supporters Shield – as well as international hardware with the 1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup and 1998 Interamerican Cup.
Following his eight-year tenure with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Arena returned to club coaching for a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2006-07, before joining the LA Galaxy the following year. In LA, Arena worked to make the Galaxy the premier club in MLS, coaching the side to three MLS Cup titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, as well as two Supporter Shield wins in 2010 and 2011. As the only five-time MLS Cup winning head coach, Arena has worked with numerous coaches throughout his time in Major League Soccer, serving as a mentor to many.
A three-time MLS Coach of the Year winner, Arena was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010 and five years later was named the recipient of the of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award, the highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation.Read more