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Spirit Make History by Signing USWNT Standout Mallory Pugh

On Saturday, just prior to their match against the Seattle Reign, the Washington Spirit announced that the team had signed one of the hottest young players and the first from the United States to make the leap to the professional level without playing in college, 19-year-old Mallory Pugh.

On Tuesday, Pugh participated in her first training session with the team, and the Spirit introduced her to the local media at the Maryland SoccerPlex. She is expected to play in the Spirit’s home game this Saturday, May 20 against FC Kansas City.

Pugh, who turned 19 years old on April 29, is a bona fide phenom. Pugh has made 22 appearances and scored four goals for the U.S. Women’s National Team since she received her first call-up in January 2016. She became the youngest player in U.S. history to score an Olympic goal while competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, finding the net in a 2-2 draw against Colombia.

"This is a historical and monumental moment for the Women’s Game, and we are really excited for Mallory. We are excited for our club. We are excited for our league, as well as the Women’s National Team,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “We are extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity to develop such a talented player. We look forward to having Mallory join the Spirit family."

“Today at training,” said Pugh, “I felt like I just meshed right in. We were playing around, and there were smiles all over the field, which I love. If you are not having fun, you are not going to succeed. I can really tell that everyone was having fun, but also it was very competitive and wants to get better.”

Pugh graduated high school Colorado last spring. She had the opportunity to turn pro and sign with the Portland Thorns but opted instead to play and attend UCLA. She deferred her fall semester to play in the Under-20 World Cup for the US in Papua New Guinea last December. She attended training and classes at UCLA over the winter before deciding she would leave college and turn pro in mid-April.

Signing Pugh was quite the coup for Gabarra and the Spirit. For weeks it had been reported around soccer circles that Pugh didn’t want to play for the Spirit because of the team’s tumultuous off-season. She was expected to make her pro debut with a European team.

“I think it was a lack of proper information,” said Gabarra when questioned about why Pugh had the change of heart and decid