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Mallory Pugh helps USWNT advance to Concacaf Tournament Final vs Canada for spot in Paris Olympics

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski deploys three Coloradan’s who took it to Costa Rica. Yanks won 3-0.

John Babiak

By all accounts, Real Colorado Soccer Club alumni Mallory Pugh has rebounded again from health setbacks, found her mojo, and is back on track giving it her all to the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT).

The fleet-footed forward was one of three Lady Yanks who scored during an all-out effort to topple Costa Rica, 3-0, in last week’s Concacaf Women’s Tournament.

Along with Pugh, Coloradan’s Sophia Smith and Lindsey Horan continue to thrive in head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s refreshed modus operandi- press high, win the ball, and quickly counter-attack.

Smith and Horan have started in all four of the tournament’s games.

During this competition, in particular, the dynamic trio excelled on both sides of the ball. They have been diligent in busting up attacks in the middle of the pitch and going forward with the intent of taking shots on the goal.

After the Costa Rica match, a buoyant Pugh told the media spoke of the team’s style, “We want to create these attacking transition moments to be able to create and just keep going. We want teams just to feel that pressure, so I think it’s just part of our identity.” She added, “I think pressing is a great opportunity to transition and attack. So, I think if you look at it that way like defense is offense, I think that’s just part of our identity.”

Before the game, Pugh had delivered two assists during tournament play yet had not scored.

Pugh’s own identity as a potent goal scorer re-emerged during stoppage time at the close of the first half, when Smith, Pugh and Rose Lavelle teamed up in a made for the highlight reel three player give-go-score combination.

Sophia Smith stole the ball from a tentative Tico defender. The ball rolled backwards to Lavelle. The creative midfielder back passed it into the 18-yard box just as Pugh was blitzing into open space. Pugh then gracefully finished with her left foot from 10 yards past Costa Rica’s oncoming keeper, Noelia Bermudez.

The goal marked her sixth of the year and 24th of her young career.

According to the USWNT media notes, Pugh’s six goals in 2022 are tied for the most she’s scored in any calendar year in her National Team career. With a team-high seven assists in 2022, Pugh has a career-best 13 goal involvements, totaling six goals and seven assists through 10 matches played this year.

With her 24 goals, the NWSL Chicago Red Star is one goal away from becoming the 25th player in USWNT history to score 25 or more goals, which would also tie her with Horan for 24th all-time in USWNT goal scoring.

John Babiak

Pugh appears to have regained her self-confidence and joy in the game after enduring successive injuries and return to play comebacks. She then toiled with maintaining the consistent play that Andonovski demands from his foot soldiers. The combination of the above contributed to the gifted winger being left off the U.S.’ Japan Summer Olympics roster.

Pugh played in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. She was the youngest player on the team and went on to both earn caps and score. In doing so, she became the youngest women American soccer player to accomplish the feat. I

However, the culmination of setbacks that go back as far as 2017 had the 24-year-old thinking of hanging up her boots. Last November, Pugh expressed her raw emotions in a lengthy Instagram post.

However, her faith, inner drive and personal and professional support system have once again lifted her into the limelight.

A considerable amount of credit has to be given to the USWNT’s High-Performance Staff. As a team, they have devoted plenty of resources to help the high-potential Pugh get up to speed after injuries and have afforded her the best platform to be prepared for the senior team’s competitive camps and matches.

During her rehabilitation stints, they have given her exercises and drills that she executes. Staff members can monitor every training session from the physical standpoint through GPS tracking technology and a mix of per usual communication modes.

To that end, in this important tournament, Pugh’s swag has re-emerged, much to the delight of her teammates, coaches and loyal fans.

On Monday, the Pugh, Horan, Smith and the Lady Yanks will face off with the reigning 2020-21 Summer Olympics gold medal winners- Team Canada, in the Concacaf W Tournament Championship match.

The showdown between two of the worlds best has significance.

The winner is guaranteed a berth in the 2024 Summer Olympics that will be held in Paris, France.

The two countries will square off for the 10th time in a Concacaf final, with the USA holding an 8-0-1 record across the previous nine meetings.

Kick-off is scheduled for 8 PM MT

USWNT Roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit; 1), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 8), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 82)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 13/0), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 16/0), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 5/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 18/0), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 156/3), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 206/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 69/1)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey, Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 115/25), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 4/1), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 77/21), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 44/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 13/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 31/3)

FORWARDS (6): Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 195/117), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars; 77/24), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 18/4), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 192/62), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 6/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 20/8)