Crystal Dunn held off French forward Kadidiatou Diani in the quarterfinals. (Michael Chow — USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
LYON, France — It might have been a few days after the United States’ quarterfinal victory over France, but Crystal Dunn’s teammates still talked about her performance in the match at Parc des Princes.
Despite giving away four inches and many pounds, the 5-2 Dunn held French forward Kadidiatou Diani at bay in the 2-1 win last Friday. Dunn is a natural attacking player who excels at midfield or forward.
“Crystal’s 1 v 1 defending has just been out of this world,” U.S. forward Christen Press said. “It’s unbelievable she’s going 1 v 1. We’re like, she still can’t possibly be like fit and fresh and ready to take it on. And she is every single time. The other players coming around her to support her lighten that load.”
Dunn, a Rockville Centre, N.Y. native and a member of the North Carolina Courage, played for the Rockville Centre Soccer Club and the Albertson Soccer Club while performing in the Long Island Junior Soccer League years ago.
Press admitted it wasn’t easy for such a forward-thinking team as the USA to play defense for long periods of time. It isn’t in the team’s make-up.
“It’s not easy for us to sit a little bit back, against the attacking and aggressive way that we’ve been built, our style normally lends itself to. But I think the reason it was so impressive that in a more defensive structure, people were asked to do things they hadn’t been asked to do. That was true in the Spain game as well.
“To be able to change to different styles and different defensive shapes with coordination with confidence is actually quite difficult and I think it’s a testimony to the character of the players and smarts and sophistication of the players.”
The Americans meet England in the semifinals Tuesday night for a spot in Sunday’s final. The winner will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden.