Vlatko Andonovski’s freshly released Olympic roster is a near replica of the 2019 World Cup team. So it may come as a surprise to some to see one-time national team phenom, Mallory Pugh, omitted from the final Tokyo squad.
In reality, Pugh has been on the outside looking in for quite some time.
While Pugh contributed to the USWNT’s 2019 World Cup victory, the young star didn’t have nearly the same impact as she did in the 2016 Olympics, starting in the team’s quarterfinal match against Sweden. Although the U.S was knocked out of the games early, Pugh had a landmark tournament, becoming the youngest player in U.S. history to score at the Olympics at 18 years old. Since then, it has been difficult for Pugh to live up to the unprecedented hype around her.
When Andonovski became head coach of the national team in 2019, he expressed excitement about Pugh’s future with the squad but also pointed to places where she still needed to develop. After Pugh was left off the 2020 Olympic qualifying roster, Andonovski said, “For Mal, consistency is crucial for being on this roster. She needs to be more consistent in the day-to-day, which is extremely hard.”
Last year continued to be a challenging one for the midfielder, as an injury kept her sidelined for most of the NWSL season and out of the national team conversation.
Now back from injury and performing at a high level for the Chicago Red Stars, Pugh looks poised to reenter the USWNT discussion. The Tokyo Olympics could very well be the end of the road for some national team veterans, leaving the door open for Pugh to make her case for the 2023 World Cup cycle in the coming year.