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Dunn deal: Crystal Dunn returns to NWSL

Dunn dunn DUNNNNN.

Chelsea Ladies v Yeovil Ladies - Continental Tyres Cup Photo by Chelsea Football Club/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

After a somewhat tumultuous 2016 season with the Washington Spirit, Crystal Dunn departed American shores to sign with Chelsea in the FA Women’s Super League. Now Dunn is set to return for 2018 as the North Carolina Courage announced they traded Taylor Smith and Ashley Hatch to the Washington Spirit in exchange for Dunn’s rights and an international roster spot. This is a huge move for both teams, though the Spirit may end up coming out on top when all is said and done considering it was never very likely Dunn would return to the US to play for them as long as they held her rights.

But now Dunn will be back. Although she signed an 18-month contract with Chelsea around the beginning of 2017, which would have originally run out around June, according to Neil Morris at WRALSportsFan, Dunn will join the Courage in time for preseason, which begins Monday, February 19 according to a press release from the league today. Dunn is apparently still expected to play with Chelsea in January, who have a game against Everton on January 28 and then Man City on February 1.

Dunn has been decent at Chelsea, scoring four goals so far out of 12 appearances, but her irregular starts haven’t been giving her the kind of playing time you’d want to see for such a potent forward - especially not with so many other scorers available to Jill Ellis right now, all of whom spent 2017 playing in NWSL and being much more visible and accessible to Ellis.

Dunn was NWSL MVP in 2015 when she scored 15 goals for the Washington Spirit, a figure she racked up perhaps both because and in spite of being left off the World Cup roster that year. Now the Courage will certainly be hoping for a similar year from Dunn after giving up one key defensive piece and one exciting young forward for her. Meanwhile, the Spirit look well-poised to break out of their last place finish in the table last year between Mallory Pugh, Smith, Hatch, and what will undoubtedly be Andi Sullivan with their #1 draft pick.

The NWSL draft will take place at 10 AM ET on Thursday, January 18 in Philadelphia at the United Soccer Coaches Convention.