Crystal Dunn: “Playing multiple positions on two different teams is something that has always been a challenge for me.” (Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
The question was asked to all four U.S. national team players during the Team Athletic Panel session at the United Soccer Coaches digital convention Monday.
Host Glenn Crooks of SiriusXM queried Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, Tyler Adams and Jordan Morris what was “the most adverse moment in your life was and how you dealt with it and how you got past it.”
When it came time for Dunn, a Rockville Centre, N.Y. native to answer, she did not give the reply many soccer fans and observers expected her to say – when she was left off the 2015 U.S. women’s team for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
“There is one that I kind of talk about a lot,” she said. “I’ll talk about one that I am still going through.”
That would be playing entirely different positions for club and country. Dunn, who has forged a reputation as a leading attacker as a midfielder or forward in the National Women’s Soccer League, plays left back for the USWNT.
Dunn admitted that the change of the positions has made her “want to pound my head up against the wall at times.”
She sounded like she was joking but switching from one position to another certainly is not an easy, even for a world-class player as the 28-year-old Dunn is.
“Playing multiple positions on two different teams is something that has always been a challenge for me,” she said during a Zoom session. “And even though sometimes I may make it look like it’s an easy task, it’s really, really difficult. Every single year I step into the NWSL or play for the national team, I have to really not overwhelm myself with the idea that I am playing two different roles, but kind of almost simplify my game to the idea of it’s just, it’s just soccer. It’s the same game regardless of where you are on the pitch.”
With the Washington Spirit in 2015, Dunn earned league MVP honors while leading the NWSL in scoring. She was dealt to the North Carolina Courage and helped that team to a pair of NWSL championships.
On Oct. 22, Dunn was traded to OL Reign in exchange for Casey Murphy and $140,000 in allocation money. She then was sent to the Portland Thorns for an international roster slot, a 2022 first round draft pick and $250,000 in allocation money. Those deals allowed Dunn to be closer to her husband, Pierre Soubrier, who is the Thorns’ head trainer.
During the 2019 World Cup, Dunn performed exceptionally well at outside back.
In fact, in one of the most memorable duels at the 2019 WWC, the former Albertson Fury player shut down the dangerous Kadidiatou Diani during the U.S.’s 2-1 quarterfinal win over France in Paris.
It sounded like playing both roles is a forever work in progress for Dunn.
“I’m still working on it,” he said. “It still is an overwhelming task at times, but I think it’s something that has made me a better player. It’s made me appreciate the game more, knowing that I see the game from multiple angles and have different perspectives of the game. But it is definitely not an easy challenge wanting to be your absolute best in the end to do so, being the 10 or being forward and assisting scoring that kind of stuff but then also being the very best outside back you can possibly be in the world on the national team.
“So, that is something that I’m like ‘Yeah, it’s great, it’s awesome, I’m growing’ but I’m like, man, it’s so challenging and it makes me want to pound my head up against the wall at times.”
O’Hara, who was a high-scoring forward at Stanford University, but now plays right back for the USWNT, commiserated with Dunn because she has experienced a similar situation.
“I did kind of have that same feeling that Crystal had for a bit in the NWSL so where I was playing outside back sometimes, I’d play outside mid. And then I was playing outside forward for my old club team at Sky Blue for a couple years. Now I thankfully have found myself just at outside back, which is a bit better. I can attest to that that it’s much better to just play one position sometimes, but again Crystal’s crushing it. She makes it look easy and it’s because she’s that good.”