Mallory Pugh admitted she had considered turning pro for a while, and there was much speculation that when she made the decision to leave UCLA she wouldn't play for the Washington Spirit. But
Pugh says she loves the vibe she's gotten with her new teammates.
"Everyone was so welcoming," she said at her introductory press conference. "Today at training, I felt like I just meshed right in. We were playing around. There were smiles all over the field, which
I love. If you're not having fun with what you're doing, you're not going to succeed. I can really tell that everyone is just having fun but also is very competitive and wants to get better. That's
the vibe I got out of today, and I love it."
Pugh debuted for the U.S. senior national team in January 2016 and delayed her enrollment at UCLA to play for the USA at the 2016 Under-20
Women's World Cup. She finished one quarter in Westwood before deciding to turn pro, which she described as a "lingering thought."
"I'm glad I went to UCLA," she said. "It was one of the
best experiences of my life. I met great people, the coaches were amazing there. I think, for me, at this point in my life, I wanted to kind of step out of my comfort zone and push myself into a new
Pugh's options were to play in the NWSL, where Washington had first crack at her via the league's allocation rankings, or in France. Jim Gabarra, the Spirit head coach and
general manager, made the case to play for the Spirit when he met with her.
"Staying here is going to help my growth better," Pugh said. "I can help the Washington Spirit games and help
the national team win games too hopefully."
The Spirit's two national team stars -- Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn -- left in the offseason and last year's NWSL runners-up
have been depleted by injuries. Dunn joins a team that finds itself in last place after five games.
"It's important that we not have too high expectations for Mallory," Gabarra said.
"This is a long process, whether it's a 19-year-old or a 30-year-old international who has not played in our league. It takes almost a year of games to really feel comfortable and figure it out. It's
important that we let Mal enjoy the process and really be free just to learn and develop and not say, 'She's coming in here to lift this team up.' This team is in a good place."