Crystal Dunn is not yet as widely known as the soccer players who won the Women’s World Cup for the United States last summer, but those who were on that team fully expect Dunn to make her mark during the Olympics this summer — and beyond.
“I have an incredible amount of respect for Crystal,” goalkeeper Hope Solo, who roomed with Dunn during Olympic qualifying, said Thursday night at espnW’s IMPACT25 Gala in Manhattan, at which the U.S. women’s team was honored.
Dunn, 23, who grew up in Rockville Centre and attended South Side High School, narrowly missed surviving the final cut for the World Cup team last year.
She was named the National Women’s Soccer League MVP after a stellar season for the Washington Spirit and by autumn was back with the national squad on its victory tour. She since has emerged among a new generation set to take key roles as older players retire.
She scored five goals against Puerto Rico just last week in an Olympic qualifying match. She was named the Golden Boot winner as the top-goal scorer (six) of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
“I have such a great time with her off the field, but I have so much respect for her on the field,” Solo said. “She kind of has an older mindset. She’s a younger, new generation of player, but she’s got that mindset of an athlete that you’d see in the past where they grind and they do the work and they compete and they do what it takes to win and do what it takes to do the dirty work and be the best.
“A lot of athletes in this day and age it’s more about the science and it’s more about you thinking you’ve earned the right to play, but she shows it day in and day out. She has that chip on her shoulder. I think a lot of times the current-day athlete, they don’t have that chip on their shoulder anymore.
“She brings something new to the team, which used to be something old. It used to be a part of the program. And she has that old element. And I think it’s incredible for the younger players to see that part is still really important to have for the success of the team. We can’t lose that part of the culture.”
Shannon Boxx, a member of the World Cup team who since has retired, added, “Crystal is such a great person to see and for young kids to emulate, because she came on the team before the World Cup, and you could tell she was new and young and was kind of just excited to be there and that was kind of her high: I’m here.
“And then I think when she didn’t make the World Cup team she kind of really refocused. It was like, OK, what is my goal? What do I want to do? I want to make a national team. And she came back. During the professional league she did amazingly and then you saw this flip.
“She came back into camp and was so focused and so ready to make the team and you just saw this transition on the field and how dominant she could be as an individual player on the national team.”
Christie Rampone, a member of the 1999 and 2015 Cup winners who currently is working her way back from knee surgery, said, “I think playing NWSL gave her that confidence . . . I think the great part about her is she’s so versatile and doesn’t get frustrated with that. As you’re seeing, she’s playing in the back and then she’s up top and then she’s in midfield.
“It’s great because she can play anywhere on the field. She’s a great locker room player, someone you want on your team, on your side. She brings so much energy that it takes away from the nerves on the team. It’s fun to have her on the team.”