Last week, National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) Chicago Red Stars striker Mallory Pugh was called up to the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) training camp ahead of two friendly matches with Paraguay this month.
“We have a few players with injuries so we needed to add some depth to the roster and Andi [Sullivan], Sophia [Smith] and Mallory are not only having quality seasons for their NWSL teams, but they can also play multiple positions,” said USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski when the camp roster was announced. “All the players will be played in as they’ve had a few matches with their clubs, so we’re planning on getting a quality start to our run to World Cup qualifying while also managing their workload as the majority of players will head back to their teams for the stretch run to the NWSL playoffs.”
For the high-potential Pugh, the camp and upcoming game offer her another opportunity to regain her visibility and luster within the senior team. Early this year she made an on-and-off-again run to make the Tokyo Olympics Team; however, was ultimately left off of the roster, even as an alternate player. A combination of injuries and recovery setbacks, plus stiff competition to make the 18-player roster dimmed her chances to play in Japan.
It is not to say the U.S. Soccer did not support her dogged efforts to make the team. In January, Andonoski spoke with the Burgundy Wave and said, “As a staff, we feel like we have devoted enough resources to help her get up to speed and stay up to speed, and give her the best platform to be prepared for the upcoming challenges.”
“First, the high-performance staff gave her and monitored every training from the physical standpoint through GPS and communications with the trainers that she was working with. From the technical side, the Technical Staff gave her exercises and drills that she needed to execute, and she did execute them very well,” he continued. “From a tactical standpoint, first, she was in on every video meeting that we had. On top of that, with one of the staff members, she went through all the positional profiles for different positions in the front line that she is playing, and broke down every tactical aspect of the game for her position.”
Concurrently, Pugh has been striving to get to peak health and psychological wellness. She has brought on a sports psychologist to help her both on the field and how she views life off the pitch. During her absence from national team play, she is taken time to clear her thinking and regain her competitive attitude. The young yet very seasoned player has taken her personal and professional growth in stride. ”I don’t feel young, but I do remind myself that I am,” she said in a recent press conference.
Pugh also said she wants to get reacquainted with her teammates and take in the moments. “I am excited to be here, and be around my friends and share good memories. I also want to continue the form that I have built in the past three months,” she added.
In her first year with the Red Stars, the Colorado Real Soccer Club product has started in 18 of 19 games and has scored three times. Her best match play was on full display this past July against OL Reign, when Pugh was involved in all three of the Red Stars’ goals. Her free-flowing, attack-the-goal play generated two own goals in addition to scoring one.
The Red Stars currently sit in 5th pace in the NSWL standings with a record of 7W-5D-7L.
Pugh’s accomplishments before joining Chicago speak for themselves. As a member of the NWSL, Pugh was the first pick by the Washington DC Spirit in the 2017 Distribution Draft and a finalist for NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2017. In the same season, she was named the Spirit’s Most Valuable Player.
Her successes with the Lady Yanks include being named U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year in 2015. She captained the 2016 U.S. FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup team, and was the youngest player to ever score for the USA at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In 2019, Pugh was a recipient of a Women’s World Cup medal.
Hopefully, for both Pugh, her loyal fans, and the U.S. Women’s program, she can put aside her misfortunes and get back on track by helping her teammates win games and entertain the millions of USWNT supporters who follow the team worldwide.
USA vs Paraguay
The matches with Paraguay will mark the first-ever meetings at the senior level. The USA will first play this Thursday, September 16 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. The second match will be played in Cincinnati at the newly opened TQL Stadium on September 21.
Paraguay ranks 50th in the FIFA World standing and 5th in the CONMEBOL ranks.
The Lady Yanks will next play South Korean on October 21 and 26 in the United States.
The team will soon start qualifying for the July 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand and Australia. The Concacaf qualifying tournament is scheduled to take place in July of 2022, with the top four teams guaranteeing their spot in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Tournament.
USWNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS):
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 5), Adrianna Franch (Kansas City NWSL; 8)
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 74/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 39/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 122/24), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 35/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 145/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 193/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 58/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 104/23), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 62/15), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 8/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 28/4), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 17/0)
FORWARDS (6): Tobin Heath (Arsenal, ENG; 177/35), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 312/128), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 186/111), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 63/18), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 6/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 40/12)
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: Thursday, September 16, 5:38 p.m. MT
Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
TV Information: ESPN2
Follow along on Twitter @USWNT, @AODenver, @AOSprings