Mallory Pugh, one of youngest and most exciting players in the U.S. Women’s National Team player pool, has quickly become a fan favorite and one of the top attacking players for the United States.
Born on April 29, 1998 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Pugh is the youngest of two children. Her dad Horace ran track in high school and college, where he was an All-American at Western State in Colorado, while mom Karen ran cross country in high school and now runs, bikes, swims and does yoga. Her older sister Brianna, who also played soccer, was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection at the University of Oregon. For Pugh, sports have always been part of her life, but her love for soccer has transcended the rest.
Here are five things to know about the Colorado native:
Wait, Who's That?
In December of 2015 at the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Qualifying Tournament, Pugh scored seven goals in five games, which included a brace in three of them, and recorded four assists to help the USA win the tournament title and qualify for the U-20 Women’s World Cup. Her performance not only earned her the Golden Boot as the top scorer of the tournament and the Golden Ball as the best player, but it also earned her a call-up to the full WNT, a dream come true for the then 17-year-old. In fact, Pugh got the call from Ellis when she was still at the airport making her way back to Colorado following the tournament win in Honduras.
Pugh captained the USA to the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Women's Qualifying Tournament title in Honduras.
Pugh joined the senior squad in Carson, California that January, and grinded out three weeks of intense training before traveling to San Diego for the USA’s inaugural match of 2016 against the Republic of Ireland on Jan. 23. Coming in for Alex Morgan in the 58th minute, Pugh made her U.S. WNT debut at 17 years, 8 months and 25 days, and thus became the youngest player to debut in the last 11 years of the WNT program. She also became the 19th player to score in her first cap when she added the fifth and final goal of the game in the 83rd minute, a header off an assist from Christen Press.
Breaking Through in 2016
Following that match, things continued to evolve for Pugh as her versatility and confidence began to grow. Pugh earned her second cap with the WNT on Feb. 10, coming in for Crystal Dunn in the second half of the USA’s Olympic Qualifying opening match against Costa Rica. With her appearance, she became the youngest player in WNT history to play in an Olympic Qualifying match at 17 years, 9 months and 12 days old. On Feb. 15, she earned her first start for the USA, playing 66 minutes against Puerto Rico and contributing with an assist, the first one of her international career.
Pugh played in 17 games with the senior team in 2016, and started 12 of them. She scored four goals and had seven assists, third most on the team behind Carli Lloyd (11), Crystal Dunn (8) and Tobin Heath (8).
Pugh missed the final six games of 2016 with the senior squad because it conflicted with a few U-20 training camps and the U-20 WWC in Papua New Guinea.
Making Olympic History
When Pugh was named to the 18-player U.S. Women’s Soccer Olympic Roster on July 12, 2016, less than six months after making her WNT debut, she became the second youngest women’s soccer Olympian in U.S. history, and the only amateur player on the roster. Pugh featured in three of the four games the USA played in Brazil, starting two. Against Colombia on Aug. 9 in Manaus, Pugh, who came in as sub in the 33rd minute, became the youngest player in U.S. history to score at an Olympic Games when she tallied in the 60th minute of the match.
Crystal Dunn set up the goal with a blistering run down the left flank of Colombia’s defense before sending a low cross through the goal mouth that arrived at the feet of Pugh on the back right post. Pugh attempted a first-time shot but it hit teammate Christen Press and came right back to her. Pugh then dribbled laterally past three defenders to the center of the box and snapped a left-footed shot through a crowd of Colombia players into the back of the net.
Pugh scored her first Olympic goal against Colombia on Aug. 9, becoming the youngest player in U.S. history to tally at an Olympic Games.
U-20 WNT Veteran
Although she is one of the less experienced players in the full National Team environment, Pugh is the leader and a veteran with the U-20s. She was a starter at the age of 16 in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and captained the group to a fourth-place finish at the U-20 WWC in Papua New Guinea.
Mal Pugh scored the first of three goals in the USA's 3-1 win against New Zealand (Photo Credit: Getty Images/FIFA)
Despite only being 18-years-old, the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup was the second one at the level for Pugh. As a 16-year-old, Pugh was the youngest player on the U.S. roster that fell short in a penalty shootout against Korea DPR in the quarterfinals of the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. She started all four games for the USA. Even more incredible is that Pugh is eligible for the 2018 U-20 World Cup, which would make her the first player in U.S. history to compete at three U-20 World Cups if she were to make that roster two years from now.
Besides her soccer acumen, Pugh is a fun personality off the field. She likes to joke around, wants to learn how to surf and loves to sing. In fact, Pugh seems to be a very talented singer and has mastered various genres, as seen below.
Pugh's soccer career is still just getting started and she is certainly excited to have much more soccer to look forward to in her future. "2016 was an incredible year. There have been lots of us and downs but it’s been worth it. I’m excited for whatever comes next.”
If that means a few plays like the one below, then we certainly can't wait.