Pugh scores in debut game for national team

In the 83rd minute of the game against Ireland, Mallory Pugh made history — again — when she headed in a goal during her debut on the U.S. women’s national soccer team: She became the sixth-youngest player in history to score a goal for the USA, the youngest to do so over the past 16 years and only the 19th of any age to score in a debut game.

“It was amazing,” said Pugh, 17, a senior at Mountain Vista High School. “When I first went in the game, I was super nervous — and most people can relate to that. But if you just go in and start playing, everything goes away. That’s kind of what happened to me.”

The Jan. 23 game played in San Diego ended with a 5-0 win for the U.S.

The top recruit in the nation for her class, Pugh — a forward for Vista and Real Colorado — was named to the U.S. Women’s National Team in December.

But this is only the latest in her string of accomplishments:

Pugh finished her U-17 career with 15 international goals in 12 appearances including the game-winner against Japan in her final U-17 matchup in February 2014. She was then called up to the U-20 team, making her the youngest on the roster. In her first camp with the U-20s, she scored two goals and added an assist in two games against China.

She captained the team to the CONCACAF championship victory, clinching a 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup berth. During the tournament, Pugh won the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals.

Bleacher Report, which follows international sports and teams, calls Pugh the “future of the U.S. national team.”

Despite speculation she would bypass college to turn pro and play for the Portland Thorns, she has decided to take advantage of a full-ride scholarship to play at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Looking forward, hopefully, I’ll keep playing on the national team and play for UCLA,” Pugh said, adding that the school aspect of playing in college and the atmosphere of UCLA influenced her decision.

“I know the support system around me is really good so I always lean on them if I need help,” Pugh said. “I just try to not think about the pressure.”

Published: Highlands Ranch Herald. Page 5. November 2015.