Crystal Dunn (right) battles France’s Kadidiatou Diani in the WWC quarterfinals. (Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports)
Crystal Dunn is someone you don’t want to say that she cannot accomplish a particular task because there’s a pretty good chance that she’ll prove you wrong.
Case in point: After learning she would not be on the U.S. squad for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Dunn took out her frustrations on the National Women’s Soccer League, leading everyone in goal-scoring and earning MVP honors.
Another case in point: When Dunn, a natural attacking player who was switched to left back for the 2019 competition, she did it without any complaints even though there were many doubters out there.
The latter move could not have worked out any better for the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native.
Dunn excelled at the position, helping the USWNT to its second successive Women’s World Cup championship and fourth overall this summer.
She then returned home to push the North Carolina Courage to its third NWSL crown in four years back in an attacking role.
For that reason, Dunn has been named the FrontRowSoccer.com personality of the year. The award is open to players, coaches, administrators and game officials from the metropolitan New York area. On Saturday, Dunn was named the website’s women’s pro player of the year.
In France, Dunn shut down some of the best forwards in the world.
“I’m proud of myself.” Dunn said minutes after the USA won the title on July 7. “Whenever I have doubt, I always realize that I am the only one who is in this unique position. I’m the only one who can switch and play into a different position and be ready that very same day and rise to the occasion.”
A former member of the Rockville Centre Power, Rockville Centre Tornadoes and Albertson Soccer Club (Long Island Junior Soccer League), Dunn heard critics question whether she could do the job in the WWC.
“Throughout the World Cup, I do feel like people were kind of doubting my ability to play that role,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve given anyone a reason to kind of give me that stance. I feel like my team supported me and that’s all that I really listened to. Once I had the support of my teammates and my staff members, I never really doubted myself. I came up against world class forwards. Outside back is not my primary position. I’m walking away from this World Cup with my head held high. I think I’ve proven to myself and everybody out there who ever thought I wasn’t fit for the job, I’m a world champion because I am fit for the job.”
Perhaps her most memorable performance came in the Americans’ 2-1 quarterfinal win over host France in a packed Parc des Princes in Paris on June 28, as she won an epic battle on the right flank with forward Kadidiatou Diani on the right flank, giving away inches and pounds.
“Dunnie, she was just on point,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said. “Her 1 v 1 defending. She watched films, she studied. She’s very diligent. I chatted with her a couple of days ago. I said, Dunnie, ‘You’ve grown so much, you are so ready for this moment.’ I thought she stepped up big time. It was as good as I’ve seen her in terms of her defending play.”
Dunn never allowed the player she was marking get a leg up on her or to score a goal.
“Dunnie had some of the best players in the world on that right side,” Ellis said after the USA defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, in the July 7 final. “She’s done incredibly well. As good as she is, she’s still on a growth pattern. She’s world-class, but I think she would be the first to say that she wants to continue to [improve] as a world-class left back.”
Dunn did not get to see much action on the offensive end in the championship match but did her job in the back.
“In terms of neutralizing threats, she was fantastic,” Ellis said. “What I love about Dunnie is that she is willing to do anything for this team. We’ve used her as a left winger, a center mid, which has done in the past, or as a left back. She has embraced that. It speaks a lot about of who she is about being about to deal with pressure.”