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.
CHICAGO (April 7, 2017) – U.S. Soccer has announced the hiring of Jitka Klimkova as head coach of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team and Mark Carr as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team.
Klimkova has been a U.S. Soccer Women’s Development Coach since January of 2015, serving as the head coach of the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team, while Carr has been a U.S. Women’s Development Coach since November of 2014, serving as head coach of the U.S. Under-15 Girls’ National Team. Both have also worked as assistant coaches for other age groups. In its continuing efforts to be a world leader for the women’s game, U.S. Soccer has had full-time head coaches for the U-20 and U-17 Women’s National Teams since 2013.
U.S. Soccer will also announce its 2017 coaches for the U-14, U-15 and U-16 Girls’ National Teams and U-18 and U-19 Women’s National Teams in the near future.
The several years of experience with their respective age groups will serve Klimkova and Carr well as they transition to the U-20 and U-17 levels. Klimkova will oversee all aspects of the U-20 WNT program and will be charged with preparing the team for CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World cup that will be held in France. Her first U-20 WNT camp will start on April 8 in San Diego.
Carr will oversee all aspects of the U-17 WNT program and will be charged with preparing his squad for CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup that will be held in Uruguay. He will coach the U-17 WNT for the first time at the Delle Nazioni Tournament in Gradisca, Italy in late April.
The coaches will also manage the integration and programming of the National Teams just below their age groups – for Klimkova the U-18 and U-19 WNTs and for Carr the U-15 and U-16 GNTs -- to maximize the evaluation and movement of players between the age groups for training camps and matches during the World Cup cycle.
“Over the last few years we’ve hired a cadre of Development Coaches as part of a plan to expose them to the international game and develop them into future candidates for our World Cup age-groups,” said Women’s Youth National Teams Director April Heinrichs. “In hiring Mark and Jitka as our U-17 and U-20 coaches respectively, we’re putting two of our best and most experienced coaches in front of our best players. They have age-appropriate head coaching experience on the international level, are familiar with our player pools, methods of coaching, style of play and philosophy. Mark and Jitka will start with their respective teams in their upcoming camps without skipping a beat.”
Klimkova, who also speaks Czech, German and Russian, has more than 20 years of coaching and playing experience at the national team, professional and youth club levels in the USA, New Zealand, Australia and her native Czech Republic.
Klimkova, 42, came to U.S. Soccer from the New Zealand Football Federation, where she was head coach of the New Zealand U-17 Women’s National Team, coaching the team at the 2014 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica, and an assistant coach for the Ferns U-20 Women’s National Team over 2013 and 2014. She was also the assistant coach for the senior New Zealand Women’s National Team in 2014.
“I love working for U.S. Soccer and continuing to embrace the many challenges of being successful at the international level,” said Klimkova. “I have always dreamed big, had ambitious goals and worked hard to achieve those goals, which are qualities we will ask for from our players. My main motivation is to work with extremely talented players, coaches, support staff to help make all of us better. I look forward to continuing to create a positive and successful culture within our Youth National Teams.”
In 2016, Carr coached the U.S. team that participated for the first time in the CONCACAF U-15 Girls’ Championship (the second time the tournament has been held). Carr led the USA to wins in all seven games by shutout and defeated Costa Rica 5-0 in the semifinal and Canada 2-0 in the championship game to take the regional title. The core of that team will be transitioning to the U-17 level this year, making Carr familiar with the player pool.
Carr, 38, came to U.S. Soccer after spending three years (2012-2014) as the Girls’ Premier League Director and Technical Director for the Lonestar Soccer Club in Austin, Texas. Prior to joining U.S. Soccer full-time, Carr has been active in the Women’s National Team programs, serving as a scout, helping run U.S. Soccer Training Centers in Texas and assisting with the U-14 Girls’ National Team camps.
“Working day in and day out with U.S. Soccer and learning from some incredible people around me while coaching the U-15 Girls’ National Team has prepared me to take on this fantastic opportunity,” Carr said. “Moving up with this group is a natural progression that I feel very comfortable with and I’m extremely honored and excited to continue the development journey with this special group of players. My focus will be to help each player grow and develop and continue through our pathway, while at the same time, embracing the opportunity to qualify for the 2018 U-17 Women’s World Cup and then doing our best to win it.”Read more