Mallory Pugh is having a moment — Woso links —Sophia Smith talks after her hat trick!
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, April 11, 2022
Happy Soccer Monday! The U.S. women’s national team routed Uzbekistan, as expected. Sophia Smith got a hat trick, becoming the youngest player with one since Christie Welsh had one in 2000 at age 19.
I was skeptical of the stat initially, but according to U.S. Soccer, Sydney Leroux was just slightly older, when she had that five-goal game against Guatemala in 2012.
While Smith provided the goals, the most dynamic player on the field was Mallory Pugh.
Back in 2016, Pugh was a wide-eyed 17-year-old who made her senior-level debut — and scored — in a 5-0 victory over Ireland.
She was part of soccer’s “youth movement” at the time, the youngest in a group of youngsters that included Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett, all in their early 20s.
She was the youngest to play for the U.S. in an Olympic qualifying tournament that year, and went on to join the 18-player roster for the Brazil Games. Then-coach Jill Ellis obviously liked what she saw from Pugh, and she was also named to the roster for the World Cup in France.
But in 2020 she struggled with injury (and consistency) and was left off of Vlatko Andonovski’s roster for the Tokyo Games.
Last September she returned to the team for a match against Paraguay and had a career-best three assists. At the time, she said she had shifted her mindset.
“I felt like I needed to see what was important to me and kind of just feel like my old self again and playing free and really with no stress — because I feel like when I first got on the national team, that’s what I did, and it worked out.”
So far this year, she has four goals to lead the the United States, and four goals for the Chicago Red Stars in the Challenge Cup.
In Saturday’s game against Uzbekistan, she had a goal (her 22nd with the national team) and three assists.
Andonovski said Pugh could have scored more, but she gave those balls to Smith.
“I’m very happy with how Mal is trending and how she’s been with this team. And slowly but surely she’s becoming this leader on the field. I mean, even though she’s this young player, she has a World Cup and an Olympics behind her, 70 camps. I mean, she has been in all kinds of situations. So with a group with Soph and Cat and Sanchez and Foxy, Mal is one of those experienced players, and sh’s taking on that role very well anbears and she’s doing good on the field. One of the things I really liked about Mal is her selflessness and willingness to put her teammates in good situations.”
Smith called Pugh the player of the match (see below for more from Smith).
“Mal put two on platter for me. So I mean, she was just on fire tonight. She’s my player of the game. She was everywhere and giving everyone perfect passes.”
Pugh is clearly finding a niche as the veteran leadership in the front line with Smith and Catarina Macario. Andonovski’s goal since the beginning of the season has been to develop relationships on the field. It certainly appears like he’s seeing results.
Haiti beat the British Virgin Islands 21-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Sophia Smith
Question: What were your initial emotions following the game?
Smith: I’m just really excited and super blessed. It was a really fun game and we played well as a team, created a lot of opportunities. I think we could have had a lot more goals, but it was good. It was a good performance, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Question: Do you have a favorite goal?
Smith: I mean all of them are good. Mal put two on platter for me. So I mean, she was just on fire tonight. She’s my player of the game. She was everywhere and giving everyone perfect passes. I don’t have a favorite goal. They were all great.
Question: When you 2 do you start pushing for third knowing that you’re that close to a hat trick?
Smith: It’s really no different. I’m always looking to score. I think obviously, it’s exciting when you get three, because it’s a hat trick. But the mindset doesn’t change. I think if it’s on, it’s on. If my my teammates has a better opportunity, I’m gonna pass it to them. It’s not all about getting a hat trick, it’s about finishing chances and just playing together as a team.
Question: Do you remember your last hat trick?
Smith: Stanford, Final Four against UCLA.
Question: What did the team get out of this match.
Smith: I think we grew a lot as a team. I think the most important thing is it’s another experience and opportunity for us to just play together and build those relationships.
Question: What would you like to improve?
Smith: I mean, we started off a little bit slow. We were not connecting our passes and doing the simple things. So I think how we start is super important. And then just continuing that for 90 minutes plus, just quality of the pass, moving for each other and just playing good soccer, I think is probably the biggest thing.
Question: Do you get frustrated with missed chances?
Smith: Yeah, I mean, I had a few that I definitely should have put away, but you can’t dwell on that because if you dwell on it, it’ll ruin the rest of the game. So I think knowing that we need to finish those chances but at the same time moving on and finishing the next ones.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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