Crystal Dunn should be a hit when she plays for Chelsea in England, says England national coach Mark Sampson. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
HARRISON, N.J. — When Crystal Dunn officially kicks off her Chelsea Ladies FC career in a couple of weeks, England women’s national team coach Mark Sampson has little doubt the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native will enjoy a successful debut.
Dunn did not score in the United States’ 1-0 defeat to England in the SheBelieves Cup encounter at Red Bull Arena Saturday night, but she certainly left a positive impression on Sampson.
“She’ll do bloody well,” he said. “She’s a world class talent. She’s a finisher. She’s dribbler. She’s an impact player. Any time you are a coach in you want a player who can make a difference and can score a goal.”
Already a veteran of 49 international matches at the age of 24, Dunn was initiated to the English style of gamesmanship during the match. She will play against many members of the English squad starting later this month.
“My shoelaces were untied and a couple of them were like, ‘Hey, your shoes laces are untied’ and I was like, ‘Are you trying to distract me here?’ So we had a couple of laughs. They were definitely trying to psyche me out a bit.”
It did not see to work as Dunn tried to either set up a goal or score one herself, usually motoring down the right side of the field.
U.S. head coach Jill Ellis felt her team did not utilize the one-time South Side High School star to its fullest in the rare shutout home loss.
“It’s always frustrating,” Dunn said. “As a player, you always want the ball. You just have to wait for the opportunity. Whenever I did get the ball I felt like I tried to make something happen and tried to get creative on ball. That’s just the nature of the game. Sometimes it’s hard for them to find me or the players are closing me down. When I got it I felt I was dangerous.”
Added Ellis: “We needed to find her more and when we did find her more, we needed to isolate her. She can destroy people. We needed to get more service out there.
“At halftime, I said to her ‘to be as aggressive as you can, get pressure on the ball.’ Crystal has got a lot to offer. We just need to keep her confidence there and keep plugging away.”
The next time Dunn plugs away in a competitive match will be against the Doncaster Rover Rovers Belles in the fifth round of the English Women’s FA Cup March 19. She will make her FA Women’s Premier League debut against U.S. international teammate and captain Carli Lloyd and Manchester City April 19.
“I’m excited to be back in England,” Dunn said. “The game tonight made me realize that the English side has come a long way. These girls are physical competing with us. They were running down to the 90th minute and plus minutes. I am excited to get back into a league that I feel like the game is growing.”
Dunn, who was replaced by Lynn Williams in the 64th minute, and her teammates had to endure temperatures that plummeted to 23 degrees and a wind-chill factor of nine at the final whistle.
“It was really cold,” she said. “When we’re running and playing, our adrenalin is keeping us going. But the moment the ball is out of bounds or there is a sub, I was like, ‘Come on, let’s keep this going! Let’s keep this going!’ ”
Dunn then laughed.
“With the cold air, it’s funny because with heat you feel a different way physically and with cold your lungs actually frozen,” he continued. “Each breath was like Ugh! The communication was hard out there. Our lips were starting to freeze. It was definitely a challenge.”