Mallory Pugh is back.
After playing an ever-present role in Chicago’s regular season campaign — second most minutes, second most goals, joint-most assists — Pugh’s resurgent year continued on Sunday with her biggest strike yet: the game-winner against NJ/NY Gotham FC in the NWSL playoff quarterfinals.
It wasn’t always pretty — Chicago finished with just 58% pass accuracy — but the Red Stars’ defense stymied Gotham’s formidable front three of Carli Lloyd, Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu, while Pugh delivered the game-winner in the 61st-minute with an unstoppable one-time effort curled into the far corner.
CUE MAL PUGHFirst playoff game, first playoff goal #CHIvNJNY | https://t.co/bONPZnnmCJ | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/uyuHikPPz2
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) November 7, 2021
Winning is obviously infectious after Pugh was at Game 6 of the World Series to support boyfriend Dansby Swanson. The Atlanta shortstop was at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois for the game.
Dansby in the house watching Mal dominate! #MKOT pic.twitter.com/oQMPK9YoAT— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) November 7, 2021
This proved the final match of Lloyd’s illustrious career. The USWNT legend was booked in the 72nd minute for a foul that reflected Gotham’s frustrations in attack — Sarah Gorden and Tierna Davidson are going to make things difficult for Portland in the semifinals next weekend.
A number of Red Stars players went to retiring Carli Lloyd after today’s semifinal contest to give their congrats on a great career in professional soccer, which ended with NJ/NY Gotham FC’s loss. pic.twitter.com/iwCWjHg2fu— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) November 7, 2021