South Florida soccer fans will get a chance to see a mini Women’s World Cup on Wednesday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton. The U.S. women’s national team faces Germany in its third and final match of the SheBelieves Cup at 7:30 p.m., preceded by France vs. England at 5 p.m.
The match will serve as the de facto championship, as USA and Germany won their first two matches of the inaugural tournament. Coaches of the USA, Germany and France are using the event as a chance to prepare their teams for the Rio Olympics this summer.
Fifteen of the players on the U.S. roster were on the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team, including Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Alex Morgan.
The youngest American player — and one of the most dynamic — is 17-year-old Mallory Pugh of Highlands Ranch, Colo., who has a team-leading four assists since joining the team in January. Pugh is captain of the U.S. Under-20 team, led that team to a berth in the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, and has signed to play for UCLA next fall.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis, a Palmetto Bay resident, called Pugh into senior national camp in January, and she scored in her debut on Jan. 23 against Ireland, becoming the youngest woman to play for the U.S. in 11 years. A few weeks later, she became the youngest U.S. player in an Olympic qualifying match.
Pugh has started five consecutive matches and had a huge assist on Alex Morgan’s game-winning goal in stoppage time against France on Sunday.
“She did really well this game,” Morgan said of Pugh. “She takes players on 1-v-1; she passes when she needs to. I think she has great decision-making, so I knew when she took that ball down, I just needed to get my butt past the defenders, and Mal played me in perfectly. All I needed to do is put it past the keeper.”
Ellis has been pleased with Pugh, as well, and doesn’t seem to have any reservation about starting her.
“I thought all day her separation was excellent,” Ellis said after the France victory. “And she obviously picked up that ball and played a great through ball. So I’m really pleased with where she’s come in this tournament because I think it’s not just the mental piece, it’s also the physical dimension of these games that’s brand-new to her at this level. She’s handled it masterfully.”
Another new player to watch is 5-foot-1 Crystal Dunn, who scored the late game-winning goal against England in the SheBelieves Cup opener. Dunn, Lloyd and Morgan lead the team with seven goals apiece in 2016. As one of the final players cut from the 2015 World Cup rosters, Dunn has been highly motivated since returning to the team for the final seven games of the Victory Tour.
Since rejoining the team, Dunn, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., has started 11 games and scored 11 goals with three assists.
Tickets to Wednesday’s doubleheader are available through Ticketmaster.