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Black History Month: Versatile Crystal always gets it Dunn

She’s dominated at forward, excelled at midfield, and has become arguably the world’s best left back.

Panama v United States: Group A - 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

There may not be a more versatile player in soccer than Crystal Dunn. The United States Women’s National Team star has excelled at several positions throughout her career, and despite some adversity, she has become one of the best players in the world. Born in New York, she quickly became one of the best players in the country. She had 46 goals and 35 assists in 3 seasons in high school, becoming so great that she missed the 2008 season due to youth national team commitments.

Dunn was a part of the United States U-17 national team that competed at the 2008 U-17 Women’s World Cup. She also was a member of the U-20 national team that competed in the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup and then won the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup.

During her time on the youth national teams, she graduated from high school and then went to college to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels. In college, she played as a forward, but also played at midfield and on defense in her 4 years in Chapel Hill. In during her junior season, in addition to winning the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup, she helped the Tar Heels win the the national championship. She was the 2012 Honda Award winner, the 2012 Hermann Trophy winner, and was an ESPY Awards finalist for Best Female Collegiate Athlete. It was then she began getting looks from the USWNT, making her debut on February 13, 2013 against Scotland. She also made the Algarve Cup roster, playing at left back instead of her normal position at forward.

After finishing her career at UNC, Dunn was the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NWSL Draft by the Washington Spirit. After a decent first year with the team in 2014, she was dropped from the USWNT for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship due to injury, which served as qualifying for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She was back on the team and made the roster for friendlies in February 2015, and she also was named to the Algarve Cup roster, failing to appear in a match. Dunn eventually was one of the last players cut from the USWNT 23-woman roster for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

She took her disappointment out on the NWSL, beginning to score in bunches for the Spirit. She finished the season with 15 goals, winning the 2015 NWSL Golden Boot and the league’s MVP award. At 23 years old, she became the youngest player to win both of those awards. She returned to the Spirit the following year, helping the team to the NWSL Championship final and scoring both Spirit goals in that title game. The Spirit ultimately lost on penalties.

After the USWNT won the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Crystal Dunn was the first player not on that roster who was added to the team for their Victory Tour. She made her first start that year against Haiti, recording her first national team assists and scoring her first goal in that match. At that point, she became a solid regular on the team, mainly at left back.

In 2017, Crystal Dunn joined Chelsea for a season and a half, scoring 5 goals in 21 appearances. She then moved back to join the North Carolina Courage, and now a full-time left back, she still scored 8 goals that season, helping the Courage to the NWSL Shield and ultimately the NWSL title. The Courage would repeat in 2019.

From there, she only got better, becoming arguably the best left back in the world. She became an indispensable player for the USWNT, becoming the everyday left back. Her patience and play was rewarded, being named to the 2016 Olympic roster as a forward. She continued to move back to her current left back position, and in 2019, she was named to the Women’s World Cup roster. Starting all but 1 match at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, she helped the USWNT win their second straight World Cup title.

Her next match for the USWNT will be her 100th cap, and she has 24 goals primarily from the left back position. She has 36 goals in 106 club appearances, and her style of play delivers a flair that few on the international stage can duplicate. Now 27 years old, Dunn is entering her prime and if her trajectory is anywhere near what it has been, she’s not going to stop until she’s viewed as the best player in the world. She has the sauce to do it from anywhere on the field, and the world needs to recognize that she’s about to take the world over.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.