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From Long Island to the World Cup: Crystal Dunn's soccer career highlights

Crystal Dunn of Unites States against New Zealand

Crystal Dunn of Unites States against New Zealand at Busch Stadium on May 16, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

Crystal Dunn, a defender on the U.S. women's national team for the 2019 Women's World Cup, began her soccer career on Long Island.

Dunn, who will turn 27 on July 3 (the second Cup semifinal game is scheduled for that day), grew up in Rockville Centre and starred at South Side High School. Learn more about Dunn's rise up the soccer ladder.

Crystal Dunn in high school

Dunn was a four-year starter on South Side’s girls soccer team. She lost only two games in her final three seasons and won state titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009. She missed the 2008 season to play in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, where Team USA took silver.

Dunn scored 46 goals and had 35 assists at South Side. She had a hat trick in the first 20 minutes of the 2009 state championship game.

Dunn was named to Newsday’s All-Long Island girls soccer first team three times and was Newsday’s player of the year in 2009. She also won New York State Gatorade High School Player of the Year that season.

Crystal Dunn in college

Dunn earned a scholarship to North Carolina, where she wore Mia Hamm’s retired number 19 at the request of Hamm herself. Dunn initially was worried that she wouldn’t live up to Hamm’s legacy with the number, but Hamm –- a two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion -- insisted that Dunn wear it.

Dunn finished her college career with 31 goals and 25 assists in 80 games and won the 2012 Hermann Award, given annually to the top women’s and men’s college soccer players. She led the Tar Heels to a national title that season and is the only player to win both ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2013) and ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2010). She also was the first player since Hamm to win ACC Player of the Year honors three times.

Dunn continued training with the U.S. national team during her time at North Carolina. She was part of the team that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup, recording two assists in six games.

Dunn made her USWNT debut on Feb. 13, 2013, in a friendly against Scotland while she was still attending North Carolina.

Crystal Dunn in the pros

The Washington Spirit made Dunn the first overall pick in the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League draft. She had three assists in 21 games as a rookie.

Dunn was the final cut from the USWNT’s Women’s World Cup roster in 2015. She spent the 2015 season with the Spirit and returned to winger/outside midfielder after playing on defense since her sophomore season at UNC. She would go on to win both NWSL MVP and the Golden Boot after scoring a league-high 15 goals in 20 games, including a hat trick against the Houston Dash on Aug. 1, 2015.

After finishing the 2016 season in Washington, Dunn moved overseas to play for Chelsea L.F.C. in London. Playing in England’s top division, Dunn was part of Chelsea’s FA WSL Spring Series winning side. She scored five goals in 21 appearances across all competitions for the Blues.

Dunn returned to the NWSL in 2018 following a deal that sent her rights to the North Carolina Courage. Playing a short drive from her college stomping grounds, Dunn immediately thrived, leading her squad to the NWSL Shield with a league-best 57 points, 15 points clear of second-place Portland, and then a NWSL championship with wins over Chicago and Portland in the playoffs. Dunn’s strong club form continued early in 2019 as she jumped out to a fast lead in the scoring race, netting four goals in the first three games while playing in a forward role.

Crystal Dunn with the USWNT

Dunn rejoined the USWNT during their Women’s World Cup victory tour in 2015, scoring four goals -- including her first international goal on Sept. 17 against Haiti -- and adding three assists in seven matches (six starts). 

Dunn scored a record-tying five goals in the USWNT’s 10-0 win over Puerto Rico in an Olympic qualifier on Feb. 16, 2016. She became the seventh U.S. women’s player with five goals in a game, joining Abby Wambach, Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Amy Rodriguez, Sydney Leroux and Tiffeny Milbrett. She also assisted on another goal, making her one of three players with 11 points in a single game (Akers, Rodriguez).

Despite her strong offensive presence in the NWSL, Dunn has been utilized in a defensive role in recent competitions with the national team. She was used primarily as a left back by coach Jill Ellis in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship last fall, where she scored her most recent international goal against Trinidad & Tobago. After being named to the World Cup roster, Dunn continued to feature at left back in the final send-off games ahead of the tournament in France.

Crystal Dunn in the Olympics

Dunn appeared for the national team in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, scoring a goal in a group stage match against Colombia, but the Americans were eliminated with a quarterfinal loss to Sweden, the eventual silver medalists.

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