The USA's Mallory Pugh (pictured) has five goals and three assists thus far at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championship in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport)
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Watching the way Mallory Pugh takes command of a game at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, it’s hard to believe that she’s only 17-years-old.
The United States forward has been one of the standout performers at the competition in Honduras, which will qualify three teams for next year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
If the Americans claim a berth by either defeating the host nation in the second semifinal on Friday or -- in the event of a loss in that encounter -- winning the match for third place two days later, Pugh will most likely earn a spot on her second U-20 World Cup roster.
She appeared in four games at the 2014 edition of the competition as a 16-year-old, a year after leading the U.S. in goals scored with five at the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship.
Now a veteran during the current qualifying campaign, Pugh is using her experience in the Americans’ bid to capture a fourth straight CU20W title.
“Last World Cup, I would say I was just kind of a young one,” said the Real Colorado product. “I really looked up to the leaders on that team. I’m trying to translate that to this team now.”
Whether by action or words, Pugh is leading a charge that resulted in a first-place finish in the group stage with a 2W-1D-0L record. She is the only player from any side to score in each of her first three games, totaling a tournament-best five goals and adding three assists.
“I really think it’s my teammates, just like how they could feed me the ball,” Pugh commented, when asked about her success in front of the net. “I know I couldn’t have five goals so far without them.”
It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing for the U.S., though. It saw a two-goal lead fade in a 2-2 draw with Mexico to open on December 4, but improved performances in wins over Panama (6-1) and Haiti (6-0) highlighted a convincing resurgence.
“I thought my team really fought hard and we knew that we had to get one job done and that we executed everything in our game plan,” remarked Pugh on the USA’s improved play. “In the next two games (after the Mexico draw) in the locker room before the game we were all just having fun and then when warm-up hits, we just kind of focused and I think we did a really good job with that.”
With Honduras waiting in the wings, what is Pugh expecting when her team takes the field at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano?
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” she finished. “Honduras, we’ve played them before and they were a really good opponent. I think if we just focus and, again, just have fun with everything we do, I think we’ll get the job done.”