By Michael Lewis
Paul Riley expects Crystal Dunn will regain the form this year that made her one of the most lethal and exciting players in U.S. women’s soccer.
Dunn, who joined the North Carolina Courage after a year-long stint with Chelsea in England, was named the National Women’s Soccer League’s MVP while capturing Golden Boot honors (15 goals) as well in 2015.
“She needs some freedom and we’ve given her some freedom,” the Courage head coach said during a conference call previewing the NWSL season Wednesday afternoon. “I think she likes that. I think she enjoys that. You’re going to see a different Crystal Dunn from the last couple of years. I think she’s hungry and loves the environment, wants to get back to her best form for the national team, too. There’s a lot to play for, for Crystal. So far, so good.”
Though she has been with North Carolina for a short period of time, the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native’s transition has been as smooth as it could be.
“Crystal’s fit in seamlessly from the personality perspective in the locker room,” Riley said. “It’s as if she has been here for years. Obviously, playing-wise, she suits our profile. She’s been very good. Against Washington last week she was very, very good in the first half.”
Courage defender Abby Erceg agreed and elaborated about the versatile Dunn, who can play forward, midfielder and defense. The 25-year-old Dunn came on as an emergency left back during the recent SheBelieves Cup and acquitted herself well.
“She’s been great,” she said. “I think the culture that we have here really does allow players coming in. She has fit in quite nicely. You would have not known that she had not been her in the past year. Obviously, of a player of that caliber as well, she brings a new level to our team. With her speed, she just fits in seamlessly. It’s fortunate for us and it’s fortunate for her as well.”
Riley noted that Dunn has asked many questions during preseason.
“She’s curious, which I like,” he said. “I think it’s important for a player to be curious. We expect great things from her. She has fit in really fantastic with the group and that was the main concern, obviously. We’ve got great chemistry in the group and its almost seamless the way she’s come in.”