Wonder Women: A champion for club and country, Crystal Dunn is a versatile star on the rise
WOMEN'S
Tyler Snipes
2 Yrs Ago
With a personal career on the rise as much as the Women’s game itself, one of the more decorated resumes to be found on the star-studded U.S. Women’s National Team belongs to defender Crystal Dunn. In fact, she might have more accolades to her name than any of her national team counterparts when it comes to club and country.  
Coming into the National Women’s Soccer League as the first-overall pick by the Washington Spirit, Dunn was already the recipient of a Hermann Trophy and had a hand in the University of North Carolina’s 2012 NCAA Championship season. In the seven years since she became a pro, Dunn has seen her career take flight as she has become a World Cup Champion, 2015 NWSL MVP, and two-time NWSL Cup Winner.
In March she celebrated hitting the century mark in terms of USWNT caps, and she finds herself as one of players head coach Vlatko Andonovski can pencil in as an ironclad fixture in the backline for years to come at age 27.  
That status was years in the making though, and it started with heartbreak. After making the 2015 USWNT’s preliminary World Cup roster, she was left out of then-coach Jill Ellis’ plans.
“Not making that World Cup roster was soul crushing,” Dunn said. “I don’t even really know how to explain it, there’s so many words in the vocabulary that I could use.”
Apart from an emergency call-up, the decision meant she would spend the summer of 2015 playing out the NWSL season with the Washington Spirit instead of donning red, white, and blue in the USWNT’s third-ever World Cup title capture.
The exclusion lit a fire.
Having Dunn’s quality in a NWSL season when teams are missing top players due to the World Cup rake gave room for experiment, and she put on a show. Playing as a forward, Dunn captured the league’s Golden Boot with her 15 goals in 21 appearances in addition to the MVP honor.
“The lesson I learned is you just have to trust yourself,” Dunn said. “You trust in the journey, you trust in the fact that this is a setback but that doesn’t mean you’re always going to be in this low point of your life.”
The successful season earned her the top-of-mind status with the national team she has been a part of since 2016. Not stopping there, Dunn tested herself in Europe and helped Chelsea earn the FA Women’s Spring League title in 2017 before returning to NWSL the next season.
“You need to enjoy what you do. You can’t just play because other people want you to play,” Dunn said. “I had to find my join again for the game.”
From there, she was part of yet another championship with the North Carolina Courage and chipped in eight goals in the campaign as she settled into her new role as an attacking midfielder.
One of the most versatile players in the world, Dunn thrived on the club level as an attacking threat, be it as a forward, winger or playmaker, but her chance to win her first major international trophy was going to require her to make major change.
Ellis moved Dunn into a left back role for the 2019 World Cup. Dunn was by no means a natural defender, but her overall talent was too valuable to leave on the bench and her willingness to embrace the role helped make it a success that served as one of the reasons why the Americans won the World Cup.
Dunn’s signature World Cup performance came in the quarterfinal victory against host France. Considered the game of the tournament featuring the two best teams, Dunn was outstanding, helping contain French winger Kadidiatou Diani on the way to a monumental victory that paved the way for the USWNT’s latest World Cup triumph.
After the World Cup, Dunn immediately got back to work on the club side and help the Courage finish off their second-consecutive NWSL Cup campaign, even contributing a goal in the final.
Now at age 27, Dunn is awaiting the kickoff of her seventh professional season and she is looking to lead North Carolina to a historic three-peat in the NWSL Cup in addition to the rescheduling of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 
Since overcoming the exclusion from the 2015 USWNT World Cup squad, Dunn has enjoyed far more career successes than disappointments, and her blossoming game should ensure that more titles for club and country are on the way.
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