October 31st 2013 was a memorable night but not because of any Halloween festivities. I was at home watching from my computer the U17 WNT compete in the 2013 CONCACAF U17 Women's Championship tournament in Jamaica. At the Montego Bay Sports Complex, #17 had scored the 1st goal of the match for the US in the 32'. A skilled dribble around T&T GK to slot home a shot on an open net. Seven more goals later, Mallory Pugh finished the match with a brace. I enjoyed watching what I consider a special group of players. From strong defensive plays from MF Taylor Racioppi to a goal of her own from Anika Rodriguez; these players had caught my attention. I'd never look at US youth soccer the same way.
Intrigued by the U17s performance against Canada in the tournament and their eventual defeat to Mexico in PKs, led to me traveling to the StubHub Center one Friday to see the team play against New Zealand at the NTC Invitational. I had the opportunity to sit & watch the match with Mrs. Rodriguez and her family. After the win, I met Mr. Pugh and spoke with him about Mallory's interest and love of the game over the yrs. Enlightening. Was great to hear about her passion for the beautiful game at an early age. I met Mallory Pugh & Anika Rodriguez that night and gave them their 1st AO scarfs. For Outlaws, giving a chapter scarf to a player is a sign of support. When I reached home after midnight, I had driven over 11 hrs to see this team.
I've continued to follow Mallory's progress with the US youth teams. Mallory's next achievement was being called up to the U20 WNT at 16 yrs old & competing in Canada at the U20 WWC. I decided to buy my 1st Pugh jersey to show support for her during the tournament. With the new cycle of U20 WWC qualifying, Mallory was named one of the captains of the squad. With an opportunity to see the current U20 WNT play in Carson last summer, my family & I traveled down to see Mallory play. For my family, supporting a player means making tifo and banners for the match. With the issues surrounding FIFA, we thought we'd make a banner with the theme Pugh 4 President. I again had the opportunity to sit and talk with Mr. Pugh at the matches about his daughter's development since I had last seen her play in person. It was eye opening to hear the challenges young elite female athletes have when playing what some consider a men's sport. I enjoyed the opportunity to see Mallory & Taylor Racioppi play and to talk to them after the matches.
I've had the opportunity to see Mallory also play for her club Real Colorado last year. Every time I watch her play, I see a player who tries hard to be a great teammate in every situation on the field. I was over joyed to see Mallory selected to her 1st #USWNT camp this January. I quickly made plans to travel to San Diego in the hopes of seeing her 1st cap. Standing in the AO section this past Saturday with my PUGH kit on & my son next to me, we had the opportunity to see Mallory come on in the 2nd half and score a beautiful goal. I'll always remember seeing #USAvIRL on 1/23/16. It's great to see Mallory get the training & experience with the senior squad to take back to the U20 USWNT as they make final preparations for the U20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea. I'm looking forward to Mallory playing for UCLA in the Pac12 & will be in the stands to continue to support her. I've enjoyed sharing Mallory's sucesses with our chapter members so that they can come to know Mal. The AO motto of "Where you go, we'll follow" will always be in my heart when I watch Mal play.