After overcoming bitter disappointment by enjoying great personal success last year, Crystal Dunn has learned not to worry about the things she cannot control and not to stress.
As one of the final cuts from the U.S. team that went on to win the Women’s World Cup, the Rockville Centre native took out her frustrations on the National Women’s Soccer League. The Washington Spirit star won the scoring title, earned MVP honors and secured an invitation back to the national team.
Dunn said that she “would give my all to the team, to the game. If my effort was there, I can only be happy with that. I can’t control if I have a bad day. The first couple of years on the team I was super stressed, super on edge. I felt that if I made a mistake it was the end of the world and I was getting cut the next day.
“We’re already in high-pressurized environments and you have to find the sanity in the world. Life goes on after that decision. That is my new motto for 2016.”
Dunn’s resilience impressed WWC coach Jill Ellis, who brought her in for the CONCACAF Olympic Women’s Championship that kicks off at two sites in Texas Wednesday.
“She could have gone home and put her head down,” Ellis said. “It energized her. The disappointment wore off and the motivation kicked in.”
The 23-year-old Dunn can play defense, midfield and forward. Her versatility has made her an invaluable performer since there are five fewer spots on the 18-player Olympic roster than for the WWC. Dunn sees herself as a midfielder.
“Midfielders have the best of both worlds,” she said. “They could score. They can also assist. They play quite a bit of defense as well. It’s always been a position where I express myself and the different dynamics of the game.”
The Americans, who have earned four Olympic gold medals, are favorites to secure one of two CONCACAF spots in Rio. They play Costa Rica (Wednesday), Mexico (Saturday) and Puerto Rico (Monday) in Group A in Frisco. Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala and Guyana comprise Group B in Houston. The top two teams in each group qualify for the Feb. 19 semifinals with the winners reaching the Olympics.
Dunn is taking nothing for granted.
“A lot of the teams are going to give their A-plus game,” she said. “We have to do the same. We can’t go in there thinking that we have it in the bag . . . This is do-or-die for everybody. It’s not going to be easy.”
The team faces its biggest transitional year. Eight WWC players are gone. Striker Abby Wambach, midfielders Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx and defender Lori Chalupny have retired. Forwards Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux are pregnant and playmaker Megan Rapinoe and veteran defender Christie Rampone are recovering from knee injuries.
“Players who have been on the team for a long time are having to step up. There are a lot of new faces,” Dunn said. “Players who were very comfortable on the team have to play a different role.”
Given her scoring prowess, Dunn’s role could be a vital one.