With Mallory Pugh, all things are possible.
At least that’s the message the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team sent on Monday afternoon. The U.S. smashed hapless Panama 6-1 in their second group match at the CONCACAF Championships, as Pugh scored two goals and assisted on another. The win was critical after the Americans opened the 2016 World Cup qualifying event with a shocking 2-2 draw against Mexico. That snapped an incredible 15-game winning streak at this event and pushed the Panama game into must-win territory.
Lone striker Jessie Scarpa, who came on at halftime in the Mexico game, scored a hat trick, while Kelcie Hedge tallied the other goal for the Americans, who are suddenly in fine position in Group B. The U.S. only needs a draw against Haiti in the final group game to progress to the semifinals, and Haiti was routed 5-0 by Mexico on Monday.
Behind Pugh’s marauding from the midfield in coach Michelle French’s amorphous formation, the U.S. got off to a flier with a miracle goal in the eighth minute from Kelcie Hedge. The Washington attacker lofted a 35-yard ball from the touch line that somehow crested over the keeper at the near post and in for a 1-0 lead.
Pugh doubled it with a slicing goal in the 11th of a one-v-one, and Scarpa got her first in the 42nd to effectively put the game to bed. Just on the other side of halftime, Pugh again got free in the box and passed up a goal-scoring chance to feed Scarpa at the opposite post, and Scarpa scythed home the easy chance for 4-0. Late sub Ashley Sanchez fed Pugh for her second in the 78th, and Scarpa polished the rout off a Sanchez free kick on the other side of Panama’s only tally for the 6-1 scoreline.
The U.S. wraps up group play on Wednesday against Haiti, and the Americans will be gunning for a blowout. The first tiebreaker is goal differential, and since Mexico is likely to beat Panama, the U.S. needs a lopsided tally to assure it avoids a rampant Canadian team in the semifinals.
The U.S. is a mere two wins from its ultimate goal. After Haiti, one win in the knockout round and the U.S. is through to yet another U20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea next year.
Rose Chandler; Emily Fox, Natalie Jacobs, Tierna Davidson, Sabrina Flores; Kelcie Hedge (Zoe Redei, 46), Parker Roberts, Savannah DeMelo (Ashley Sanchez, 71), Kiara Pickett (Marley Canales, 32); Jessie Scarpa, Mallory Pugh