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Mallory Pugh all but locked into USWNT starting spot, says Andonovski

Mallory Pugh is in the midst of a renaissance after she was left off the USWNT’s Olympic roster last summer. (Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team forward Mallory Pugh is all but locked into her starting spot, coach Vlatko Andonovski revealed Monday.

“I can’t see someone getting the starting spot from Mallory in these qualifiers,” he said after revealing the roster for the World Cup qualifying tournament in July. “She’s incredible.”

Pugh has had a great start to the NWSL season for the Red Stars, scoring five goals through eight games. The 24-year-old was left of the USWNT roster for the Olympics last year, but she has surged back to the forefront since then.

She notched a game-winner on Sunday against the Orlando Pride and was also impactful on defense, notching three recoveries and one block while winning 67 percent of her tackles. She was named Just Women’s Sports’ NWSL Player of the Week for her performance.

Andonovski noted the strength of the USWNT’s forward group during his press conference Monday when offering an explanation for the exclusion of USWNT veteran Christen Press from the roster. In doing so, he singled out Pugh and Sophia Smith.

“It will be extremely difficult for a player to come in and take their starting spot,” Andonovski said of the wingers.