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Everything you need to know about Mallory Pugh

Alex Caparros – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Mallory Pugh burst onto the women’s soccer scene as a teen sensation, receiving her first call up to the senior USWNT at 17 years old. Since then, her career has taken plenty of twists and turns as a veteran of the game at just 23.

A promising start in Colorado

Pugh was born into a family of athletes, raised alongside her older sister Brianna in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The star forward credits her sister for introducing her to the game of soccer at a young age.

“When I was younger, I always looked up to her and I always wanted to be just like my sister,” Pugh told Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast. “So she was playing soccer and I was like ‘well I want to play soccer too.’”

The early introduction to the sport paid off, with Pugh quickly becoming a soccer wunderkind. Pugh remembers being called into a U-14 national team camp when she was still just in seventh grade. By high school, Pugh was a mainstay in the youth national team system, with a USWNT senior roster spot on the horizon.

In her final two years of high school, the young star captured the Golden Boot award at the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament, as well as the Gatorade National Player of the Year and U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year awards.

Pugh’s early success earned her a call up to the senior USWNT team at just 17 years old, an experience she recalls to O’Hara as being “so weird.” Her first camp with the team, however, ended in success, with Pugh remembering feeling as though she had nothing to lose and playing with freedom. While the hype was palpable, Pugh says she learned not to overthink things and block out external pressure at a young age.

Going pro

Much was made about Pugh’s decision to forgo collegiate soccer and pursue a professional soccer career. At first, the 17-year-old couldn’t see herself in a pro league and decided to join UCLA’s team. After three months, however, Pugh knew it was time to leave the Bruins and forward her career, without ever stepping on the pitch for UCLA. The decision was one she didn’t make lightly, agonizing over whether to join the NWSL for over a year before finally making a move.

“I’ve always told myself I want to be able to inspire younger generations,” Pugh told O’Hara. “I do feel like me stepping out and kind of having to be bold and courageous with that, it did maybe send that signal or send that message that females and people in women’s sports… can leave school early and go professional.”

Pugh joined the Washington Spirit in 2017, notching six goals in her debut season and ending the season as a finalist for Rookie of the Year.

USWNT career

Pugh made her mark on the world stage when she clinched a spot on the 2016 Rio Olympics roster, becoming the youngest U.S. player to ever score during the Games at 18 years old. Though the United States were bounced in the tournament’s quarterfinals, Rio served as a turning point in Pugh’s career, solidifying her place in the USWNT conversation.

Receiving consistent call-ups in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, Pugh made the 23-player France roster. For any 21-year-old, simply making the USWNT World Cup team would’ve been a career-defining moment, but for Pugh, the major tournament presented a new challenge for the soccer prodigy. Playing fewer minutes than she expected, Pugh had to embrace her role as a support player rather than a starter.

“Obviously, I wanted to play more, but it wasn’t my time to,” Pugh told O’Hara. “I definitely had to change my mindset and look at it a different way.”

Alongside her teammates, Pugh earned a World Cup title, her first senior major tournament championship.

The year following her run in France, Pugh’s career entered unchartered territory, with the forward left off a USWNT roster for the first time since initially being called into the USWNT. Pugh did not make then new coach Vlatko Andonovski’s Olympic qualifying roster, telling O’Hara, “It was pretty rough, but I am a strong, strong believer in everything happens for a reason.”

After a bronze-medal run in Tokyo, Andonovski started bringing in a range of non-Olympic players into USWNT camps, including Pugh. The Chicago forward was invited to a series of National Team friendlies in Australia but opted out of the Matildas’ matchup. Andonovski did, however, say her decision not to participate would not impact her invitation to the team’s first camp of 2022 in January.

NWSL comeback

While Pugh dealt with falling out of the USWNT ranks, the young star also battled a series of nagging injuries and a handful of trades, playing with three different NWSL teams in the course of three years. In January 2020, Pugh was traded to Gotham FC (formally Sky Blue FC) before landing in Chicago for the 2021 season.

The moving around certainly impacted Pugh’s rhythm before she found her footing with the Red Stars. The 2021 NWSL season served as a renaissance for Pugh, who notched four goals and four assists, ending the year as MVP runner-up. Pugh also led the Red Stars to a surprise NWSL Championship game appearance, where they fell to the Washington Spirit in a closely contested battle.

Although Pugh missed the team’s semifinal match against Portland due to COVID-19 protocols and left the final early with an injury, Pugh’s season was a resounding success.

Still just 23 years old, Pugh has plenty of time to get back on track and continue her rise as one of the world’s best young talents.

What’s Next

Pugh ended 2021 announcing her engagement to partner Dansby Swanson, shortstop for the Atlanta Braves.

The soccer star’s future with the USWNT is still very much a topic of conversation, with the World Cup cycle about to get underway. Pugh will have to compete against a deep forward pool to stamp her mark on the roster after missing an exciting Australian series in late 2021.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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