Soccer

18-year-old Mallory Pugh embarrasses defenders, scores a great solo goal for USWNT

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 19: Mallory Pugh #2 and Alex Morgan #13 of the United States celebrate after Morgan scored a goal in the first half of their game against Trinidad and Tobago during their Semifinal of the 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium on February 19, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 19: Mallory Pugh #2 and Alex Morgan #13 of the United States celebrate after Morgan scored a goal in the first half of their game against Trinidad and Tobago during their Semifinal of the 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at BBVA Compass Stadium on February 19, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

The future of the U.S. women's national team sure looks bright, and it's largely due to 18-year-old Mallory Pugh.

In the USWNT's final tune-up match before the Olympics in Rio next month, Pugh looked like the best attacking threat for the Americans against Costa Rica on Friday night. As a left winger, she was a constant menace in the USWNT's 4-0 win, dancing her way through Costa Rica's back line and finding seams to play the ball through for her teammates.

As analyst Julie Foudy put it, she plays like she has ice in her veins. And well, this goal proves it -- not only in the way she took it herself and beat the Costa Rican defense, but the tough angle she scored from:

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To be sure, Costa Rica's defending left a lot to be desired, and the talent in the Olympics should be much stronger. But even at the young age of 18, Pugh has emerged as one of the USWNT's best talents and a likely starter in Rio. She also leads the team in assists this year at seven.

American soccer great Mia Hamm seems to agree:

Speed kills but technical speed absolutely annihilates defenders . Mallory Pugh is for real.

— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) July 23, 2016

Goal aside, the most savage example of Pugh's play on Friday came in the 66th minute. She nutmegged a Costa Rican defender once as she slipped a pass to teammate Crystal Dunn. And a few seconds later, she nutmegged the same player again. Ice cold.

The stats tell a pretty clear story as well: Pugh led the Americans in successful one-on-ones, and she finished with the second-most touches for the team:

Mallory Pugh plays 77 minutes and finishes with 56 touches (2nd on #USWNT) and five successful one-on-ones (most on U.S.). #PughPughPugh

— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 23, 2016

A year ago, most American fans had never heard of her, but now it would be no surprise to see the teenager playing a pivotal role for USWNT in their quest for Rio Olympic gold.

The USWNT opens the Olympics group stage on Aug. 3 against New Zealand.

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