This summer was shaping up to be a big one for Mallory Pugh. After being traded from Washington to Sky Blue FC in January, she was going to be on the box office marquee with the team’s move to Red Bull Arena. Once on the field, she’d be serving up passes for Carli Lloyd to finish, perhaps scoring, a few of her own, and hopefully moving back up the U.S. national team depth chart.
But that’s all out the window now, and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pugh suffered a right hip injury during an offseason workout, and while she was able to train some this spring, she isn’t healthy enough to play in the NWSL Challenge Cup. So she’s staying home while her teammates go to Utah this week.
“Obviously, we were all upset that I wasn’t going to be able to play, but I’m very excited to be able to watch them and support them and send love and good vibes their way,” Pugh said. “I’m disappointed, but I think what I had to do is make the decision that was best for me — and that’s to get healthy and get my head healthy, so I can be ready for the future and next season.”
The Colorado native thanked the team’s coaches and staff, and admitted she wants “to really be able to explore that area” of the country, which she hasn’t been to much beyond short trips for games.
Pugh has been paying attention to more than just soccer lately. Her boyfriend, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, is getting ready for the baseball season to start — with all of its coronavirus precautions, and after so much labor strife. They met through Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Jace Peterson, Pugh’s brother-in-law, when he played in Atlanta a few years ago.
Asked how often she and Swanson talk about baseball’s situation, Pugh said, “Yeah, every day,” and laughed a bit.
“Their stuff is very interesting, and it has opened my eyes to a lot that they have to deal with and go through,” she said. “But I think he’s very excited to be able to play, because both of us, that’s what we love to do.”
Pugh admitted that “this time has been hard for us to be able to kind of cope with things, because what we do every single day and what we work for, it’s kind of gone.”
But she was plenty busy on Wednesday. Pugh presented the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year award in girls’ soccer to Emily Mason of Hunterdon Central in Flemington, N.J., in a surprise event held by videoconference.
“It was very shocking,” Mason said. “She was just, like, ‘Hi, Em — I think your coaches have something for you behind you.' So I turned around and I just see them carrying this huge trophy, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.' It was definitely something.”
Pugh loved it, too.
“It was awesome, oh my gosh” said Pugh, who won the award herself five years ago. “It was like it came full circle. I remember being in her position, and then being able to do that for her, it’s just really cool to see.”
Many friends and family watched the video feed from their homes as the moment unfolded.
Mason, a junior forward, comes from a soccer family. Her mother, née Jeannette Goepfert, played collegiately at Monmouth and is in the athletic department’s Hall of Fame. When Jeannette played youth soccer, she was coached by Glenn Crooks, who went on to be Rutgers’ head women’s coach from 2000-14 and now coaches at the prestigious PDA Soccer youth club — where Emily plays for one of the teams.
“PDA, they produce such great talent,” Pugh said. “New Jersey as a whole, the talent and the amount of impact that comes out of that area for women’s soccer is really cool to see.”
Mason played last year for the U.S. under-20 team at Concacaf’s regional championship. She has committed to play collegiately at Rutgers, which means she’ll follow in the footsteps of the most famous Scarlet Knight of all, Carli Lloyd. Through last year, Sky Blue called Rutgers’ Yurcak Field home.
“I’m a really big homebody, so I love being home and around my family and friends,” she said. “Rutgers is such a family environment. The coaches are so nice, they really care about all their players and stuff, and my friends are going to Rutgers. So it’s amazing to grow up and get better as a player with them.”
You can guess where Mason wants to play professionally after that.