The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.
To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.
Club: Washington Spirit
National team experience: Pugh has played 53 games for the USWNT and scored 16 goals. In the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she started all three games and was subbed in each of them. More recently she has been coming off the bench.
What to expect from Mallory Pugh in 2019: When Mallory Pugh first came on the scene for the USWNT in 2016, she was 17 and seemed like a revelation. She was tiny, preternaturally fast, and seemed like she could more than hold her own at the senior level. It’s therefore somewhat disappointing that at 21 she’s not starting regularly for this edition of the team. This often happens to prodigy-like players who get a lot of exposure early. The truth is, it’s a hard path from 17 to 21, and the weight of expectations and public attention doesn’t make it any easier. Bodies change and take getting used to. What seems like pure fun at 17 feels different when you’re still only 21 and you’ve been doing it professionally for a few years now. Injuries add up and slow your development. Pugh seems to have experienced a little of all of that over the last three years. Her work in progress is currently in a positive state, but it’s that of the first player off the bench as a sub in most games, not as a starter. Her speed and imaginative movement are still noticeable when she gets on the field and it would not be surprising at all to see her spark a come from behind win in a game in this World Cup. There’s literally no shame to being behind Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe at 21.
Non-gendered personal interest item: When Pugh was 14, she broke her femur during a game and was back on the field in FOUR MONTHS. AGHHHHA.