If there was an advertisement for bouncing back from adversity, Crystal Dunn would be the spokeswoman.
After learning that she was a final cut from U.S. Women's World Cup team, the Rockville Centre native was stunned. Instead of moping, Dunn has been mopping up in front of the goal, becoming the National Women's Soccer League's most dominant player. Entering the weekend the 23-year-old striker had scored a league-high 12 goals in 14 matches and has four times been named the league's player of the week.
Dunn is a major reason why the third-place Washington Spirit (7-4-3 entering last night's game in Boston) is in solid shape to secure one of four playoff spots.
"She's so dynamic. She could be MVP," said Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, her youth coach on the Albertson Fury. Dunn burned Riley's side for a game-winning goal in May. "She can carry a team and change a game."
The effervescent Dunn claims that she hasn't been taking her frustrations of not making the World Cup team out on the rest of the league, that she doesn't have a chip on her shoulder.
"I don't wake up every day thinking that I've got to prove to the world [I shouldn't have been] cut from the team," she said. "I wake up every day wanting to get better. I'm not angry at anything.
"I'm not going to hang my head. Life goes on. You're going to have disappointing moments. But it's not the end of the world. It's really what you make of the situation and how you turn it around."
Speed, athleticism, improved tactical knowledge and her intensity has allowed Dunn to turn around opposing defenders regularly.
Despite being all of 5-2, Dunn is one tough cookie.
"She's shorter, so she has a great center of balance, kind of what a [Lionel] Messi has," Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum said. "She's tough to knock off the ball. She's got the whole package."
Last week, she secured her first professional hat trick during a 17-minute span in a 3-1 win over Houston, which included three U.S. players from the world championship team -- tournament MVP Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian and Meghan Klingenberg.
"I read that feedback on Twitter: 'Well, let's see what she does when the national team players come back and blah, blah, blah,'" Waldrum said about players lost to the World Cup duty. "It had nothing to do with her playing in the league that didn't have national team players. There's plenty of national team players from other countries. There are plenty of players in this league that have the ability to be on the U.S. women's national team that didn't make that roster. There's no doubt she's continued to have that success she's had all along."
Dunn's versatility -- she can play defense, midfield and forward equally well -- might help her to earn a spot on next year's Olympic team, though roster space drops from 23 to 18 players.
"There's not a player in our league who has been more consistent and in form than her," Waldrum said. "Every country, every pro team, every college team dreams about having a player who can score goals. It would be crazy not to have her in."
Dunn said the Olympics was "definitely a goal."
"But at the same time, this job is very strenuous," she said. "If you let yourself to jump too far in the future you kind of miss out in the moment. I am living in the moment.
"It's not going to be easy to get into the Olympic roster. I'm going not to wake up every day beating myself up. I'm not going to kill myself if I'm not on the roster. My time will come eventually."
Crystal Dunn's time already has come in the NWSL.