Mallory Pugh was wondering whether she’d ever play soccer again less than 18 months ago. An injury suffered with the U.S. women’s national team in January 2021, and some inconsistent play, contributed to her to being left off last summer’s Tokyo Olympic roster. Plus, she’d just been traded for a second time in as many years in the National Women’s Soccer League.
But now Pugh’s on her way to the CONCACAF W Championship with the national team after recording six goals and two assists in seven games so far for the Chicago Red Stars. The winner of the W Championship automatically qualifies for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics.
Pugh’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency led her to seriously contemplate retiring last year at the age of 23.
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“I just remember asking God, like, ‘Why is this happening?'” she said in an interview for the Summer 2022 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine. “I feel like you always ask ‘why.’ I look back at it now and I know exactly why it happened — because my faith in Him has grown immensely. Me getting injured and me missing the Olympics and me kind of finding myself on the field again, it really started because I found myself in Christ even more.”
The injuries and setbacks caused Pugh to do some deep reflection and evaluate the role faith played in her life. She leaned heavily on God and started separating her identity from her profession. Once that happened, everything else fell into place.
“[Lasy year] started off so terrible,” Pugh said. “And then I just really found my relationship with God and it just really took off. I wouldn’t want it any other way now. I feel like my identity was so wrapped up in soccer, and then when the game is kind of taken away from you, you start questioning.”
The 24-year-old converted a penalty kick and contributed an assist in Chicago’s 2-2 draw with the Kansas City Current on Saturday that put the Red Stars in third place heading into the international break.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) June 19, 2022
Leaning into her faith during all the disappointments and questioning taught Pugh what it means to truly surrender control of her life to God.
“One thing I did learn through this whole process of kind of finding myself again on the field, but also the spiritual growth that I’ve had, was just letting God take it all,” she said. “Letting Him take it all and whatever He wants me to do, I’m going to do.”
While Pugh is plenty busy on the field helping the U.S. attempt to secure a place in the World Cup and Olympics, as well as trying to get the Red Stars back to the NWSL championship game, she is also planning a wedding with Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson at the end of the year.
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With plenty to keep her occupied, Pugh wants to take it all in and make sure she takes advantage of every opportunity she sees to advance God’s Kingdom.
“I feel like, obviously, goals are goals, but I’m really trying to stay present in where He has me and where my feet are placed right now,” she said. “I’m like, ‘What’s my mission right now? How can I better serve You and better grow Your Kingdom?'”
Pugh and the national team face Columbia in her home state of Colorado on Saturday and again in Utah on Tuesday in preparation for the W Championship. The tournament begins on July 4 and ends on the 18th.
— SS PODCAST: U.S. soccer star Mallory Pugh on faith, identity, growing in Jesus
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— SS PODCAST: Braves SS Dansby Swanson on winning World Series, living out faith in God
— Dansby Swanson helps hometown Braves win World Series: ‘He’s blessed me so much’