Make no mistake about it, Sky Blue FC has the keys for a bright future
Sky Blue’s 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit on Saturday was the first game in the NWSL’s fall series following the 2020 Challenge Cup in Utah. These two teams met in the Challenge Cup with Sky Blue winning in penalty kicks to advance to the semifinals.
Both teams were missing key pieces in this match, the Spirit entered the match without midfielder Andi Sullivan who is still recovering from a torn meniscus suffered in the Challenge Cup. Sky Blue will be without midfielder McCall Zerboni who also is recovering from a torn meniscus from the Challenge Cup.
But the story from this weekend’s match is not who didn’t play, but who made her Sky Blue debut. Mallory Pugh. Pugh was acquired from the Washington Spirit in January and missed the Challenge Cup due to a hip injury and made her first appearance in a Sky Blue kit against the very team that traded her away earlier this year.
Sky Blue FC have the youth needed to build for a brighter future
The Colorado native appeared as a substitute in the 61′ minute replacing Dominique Richardson. She immediately made an impact on the match, forcing Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe into making saves. Pugh came painfully close to scoring her first Sky Blue goal on her debut in extra time when she slipped past Bledsoe but hit the woodwork to keep her out.
Although she didn’t score a goal, she did earn an assist in her debut setting up Margaret “Midge” Purce perfectly moments later to find the match-winning goal and start the Pugh-Purce Sky Blue relationship on the right foot. Coming into this match, fans were thrilled to finally see Purce up top in the starting lineup. In the Challenge Cup, Sky Blue manager Freya Coombe opted to use Purce as an outside back rather than her traditional forward role.
The fans should be excited to see Purce up top, she finished 2019 second in goals for the Portland Thorns with eight. Only one behind Christine Sinclair. What Sky Blue fans should be even more excited about is the potential a Purce-Pugh attack could bring. There were glimpses of it right off the start when Pugh came into the match and it paid off late to get the match-winner.
Both players are young and have been called into USWNT camps, Pugh more so than Purce. As time goes on and national team forwards like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan begin to age, that is going to open the door for players like Pugh and Purce to perhaps get into the team more consistently and even start matches for Vlatko Andonovski’s side.
The Pugh and Purce combination got off to a perfect start against the Washington Spirit in the limited time it was on the field. But that glimpse of attacking talent is just a small sample of what Sky Blue and USWNT fans can expect to see for the year ahead.