Defender Crystal Dunn likes to say she hails from Strong Island. Midfielder Allie Long notes that the Long Island and New York state of mind has influenced her.
“I’m so proud to rep Long Island, that it shaped me into who I am as a player today,” Long said during Women’s World Cup media day in New York City on Friday. “Any time I met people from out of state whom I played with or against, they always feared people from New York. I always used that to my advantage and had a chip on my shoulder. New York people don’t take any crap from anybody.”
Dunn had similar thoughts. “We’re both from Strong Island. We’re a different breed. Yeah, it’s special,” she said with a laugh.
“Me and Allie always tell people that if you can survive in New York, you can survive anything.”
They’ve done more than just survive; they’re professional soccer players who have thrived as U.S. teammates who will play in next month’s Women’s World Cup in France.
Their paths to the U.S. team took similar routes.
Both women — Long is 31, Dunn 26 — learned their craft in Long Island Junior Soccer. They starred for the Albertson Soccer Club after Dunn played for the Rockville Centre SC and Long with Northport/Cow Harbor SC. Each was named Newsday high school player of the year (Long for Northport in 2004, Dunn for South Side in 2009). Both played vital roles in leading the University of North Carolina to NCAA Division I championships and became National Women’s Soccer League All-Stars.
They endured hardships, failing to earn a spot on the 2015 world championship side as 11th-hour cuts by coach Jill Ellis, who wanted experienced players.
They also learned how tough they really can be.
Dunn took out her frustrations on the rest of the NWSL, capturing league MVP honors and the scoring title.
“I’ve worked so hard for four years now, and to be assured a spot on this World Cup roster is incredible,” she said. “My work paid off. That’s such a great feeling of knowing that you went through such hard trials and you end up where you wanted to be.”
After being cut, Long promised herself that she would never feel that way again.
“I look back and I am so thankful for that because you learn so much when you fail,” she said. “It’s given me this drive and this hunger to continuously grow as a player and get better . . . so I can try to be the best player I possibly can be. The road was so extremely tough. It makes it so much more rewarding because I truly worked for it.”
Now they’ll get an opportunity to share their New York and Long Island state of mind in France.