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Teenager Mallory Pugh named to young U.S. roster for Olympic qualifier

Teenager Mallory Pugh named to young U.S. roster for Olympic qualifier
Mallory Pugh, left, of the U.S. fights for the ball with Julie Ann Russell of Ireland on Jan. 23 in San Diego. (Todd Warshaw / Getty Images)

High school senior Mallory Pugh was named Tuesday to the 20-player U.S. roster for next month's women's Olympic soccer qualifying tournament in Texas.

Pugh, 17, made her first appearance — and scored her first goal — for the national team in its opening game of the year, a 5-0 win over Ireland on Saturday in San Diego. She is the youngest player ever named to an Olympic qualifying roster for the U.S., and she is one of eight players on the team with fewer than nine appearances for the national team.

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"There's a lot of fresh faces out there and it's refreshing," co-captain Carli Lloyd said.

"I love taking some of the younger players under my wing."

Also making the team was Crystal Dunn, the reigning MVP and scoring champion in the National Women's Soccer League. Dunn was the last player cut from last summer's World Cup roster.

Forward spots for both Pugh, a UCLA recruit from Colorado, and Stephanie McCaffrey opened when Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, who both played on last summer's Women's World Cup winning team, announced they were pregnant and wouldn't be available this summer.

The U.S. has also lost four players to retirement and two to injury since last year. However 13 of the 20 players chosen by Ellis on Tuesday were on the World Cup team and seven players were on the roster for the 2012 Olympic qualifying event.

"This was an exceptionally challenging roster to select," Coach Jill Ellis said in a statement. "The players all worked and competed very hard in the January camp, and that made the final decisions extremely difficult."

With only 17 field players allowed on the roster for the five-game qualifying tournament, Ellis went with a versatile team.

"Most of the field players are capable of playing at least two positions," Ellis said. "It is important to have players that can individually and collectively break teams down to create chances."

The U.S., which has won the last three Olympic tournaments, is bidding to become the first team ever to win a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal in consecutive years.

The roster

Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

Defenders: Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

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Midfielders: Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)

Forwards: Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)

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