USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski on Crystal Dunn (above): “I knew that she was going to perform. She never missed a beat. So very happy for Crystal and very thankful that she’s able to do whatever it takes for this team to be successful.” (Matthew Levine/Outfoxed Media Photo)
By Michael Lewis
That’s right folks. You weren’t watching a National Women’s Soccer League game Friday night.
That was Crystal Dunn playing forward after she came on for Megan Rapinoe in the U.S. women’s national team’s 6-0 triumph over Colombia at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Over the last four years or so, the Rockville Centre, N.Y. has played primarily at left back for the USWNT even though she has forged a reputation as one of the best attacking players in club play.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski admitted he thought he was thinking of using Dunn at forward for a while. Dunn distinguished herself as one of the leading outside backs during the USA’s run to the 2019 Women’s World Cup crown.
“The thought of Crystal playing forward started way back even when we selected the roster,” he said after the game. “I had that idea and Crystal texted me as soon as the rosters came out with a little smiley face that she says that saw that the roster is a little bit unbalanced, more defenders and less forwards.”
When the original roster was announced Jan. 6, there were 10 defenders, eight midfielders and five forwards.
But then front-line players Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith suffered injuries. Meanwhile, Dunn played left back in the 4-0 win over the South Americans Monday.
“The opportunity for Crystal to play it forward just got bigger and bigger,” Andonovski said. “That’s the thing I talked about this on it being very versatile on the backline. Crystal has to be the most versatile player on the field.”
Perhaps in the world.
A one-time standout with the Albertson Fury on Long Island, Dunn has played defense, midfield and forward during her eight-year tenure with the national side. She has scored 24 goals in 107 international appearances.
“I literally feel comfortable putting Crystal in any position on the field,” Andonovski said. “She’s going to meet the standard set. So, when she went in as a forward. I knew that she was going to perform. She never missed a beat. So very happy for Crystal and very thankful that she’s able to do whatever it takes for this team to be successful.”
Dunn, who replaced Rapinoe in the 63rd minute, is probably at her best during the flow of play, running at the opposition. As it turns out, her corner kick 10 minutes later set up Lindsey Horan’s 20th international goal, this one off a header.