The National Women’s Soccer League recorded one of the biggest victories in its five years when news broke this weekend that 19-year-old U.S. WNT star Mallory Pugh has elected to begin her professional career in the league as a member of the struggling Washington Spirit.
Fans of the top flight American women’s league have been holding their collective breath for almost a month since the dynamic forward announced that she would leave UCLA for the paid ranks without having played an official game at the collegiate level.
After a winter of wheeling and dealing Pugh’s rights were held by Washington, a team Pugh was widely believed to have no interest in playing for.
Speculation suggested that Pugh would attempt to force a trade of her rights, perhaps to Portland, a rumor that appeared to have legs given that Pugh had come close to joining the Thorns last year before she broke off talks and committed to UCLA. Europe was also an option with high rollers PSG frequently mooted as a potential landing spot for the dynamic young talent.
Pugh’s ultimate decision to remain in the U.S. and to allow her professional home to be determined by the league’s Distribution Ranking Order (DRO) comes after an offseason that saw several U.S. WNT team stars begin the campaign playing in Europe and while the move abroad is temporary for Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, Washington lost Crystal Dunn when she left the Spirit on a permanent deal to sign with Chelsea in January.
Having also traded U.S. WNT team defender Ali Krieger during the offseason a snub from Pugh would have been a bitter pill to swallow for a Spirit club that sits in last place in the league following Saturday’s 6-2 defeat in Seattle.
Washington’s 1-3-1 record and -5 goal differential suggests that even Mal Pugh won’t be enough to turn the Spirit around but where there is hope there is life and Pugh certainly brings a ray or two of hope not just to Washington but to the entire league.