Crystal Dunn and Allie Long have something in common. Both have had to overcome disappointments to realize their Olympic dreams.
Dunn, a Rockville Centre native, was among the final cuts from the United States Women’s World Cup championship team last year. Long, who hails from East Northport, couldn’t stick with the team, and at 28, was running out of time.
Now she is counting down the days to the opener at the Rio Summer Games against New Zealand on Aug. 3. Both Long Islanders were named to the 18-player squad Tuesday by U.S. Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis.
“As soon as Jill said congrats, I was so grateful and thankful,” Long said. “I tried not to cry, but when we hung up the phone, I did. Only happy tears. People had told me this was impossible. The team had just won the World Cup, it was hard that they would change the team and I came in so late, but it happened. It’s one of the most humbling and special experiences.”
With the Olympic rosters holding only 18 players compared to 23 at the Women’s World Cup, Ellis had to ensure her selections were versatile, especially if the team wants to win an unprecedented fourth successive gold medal and fifth overall.
Long, who plays midfield for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, has performed well at the attacking and defensive spots. Dunn, 24, is a triple threat — at forward, midfield or defense.
Last year Dunn took out her frustrations on the rest of the NWSL, leading the league in goals while earning MVP honors.
“Wow, what a journey!” Dunn wrote on her verified Twitter account. “A lot of tears, and pain, but all of the love and support placed me exactly where I wanted to be.”
Dunn hasn’t scored for the NWSL’s Washington Spirit this season, but Ellis still tapped her. She won the Golden Boot at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, scoring six goals, including five in a win over Puerto Rico.
“Ultimately, it’s what is she doing here against other national teams, against other teammates in training,” Ellis said in a conference call. “She’s been very consistent and has done very well.”
Long has paid her dues. Last winter she and her fiancé, former U.S. youth international and Molloy College standout Jose Batista, moved to Houston and lived with his parents as Long embarked on an ambitious five-month training program.
“I feel like your age, if you’re the best player in that position, you deserve to be there,” she said. “Of course, it definitely lowers chances, but I don’t think anything is impossible if you want it or you’re willing to work for it.”
Not even the threat of the Zika virus could deter her.
“It’s definitely scary for someone who wants to have kids in the next year or so,” Long said. “I’m not part of that group. I feel that I’m OK.
“Going to the Olympics is a dream and I wouldn’t let it come in the way. I’ll do whatever I can to protect myself. I’m focused on the gold medal right now.”
The U.S. roster (with NWSL teams in parentheses):
Goalkeepers (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC).
Defenders (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City).
Midfielders (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC).
Forwards (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado).