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Rockville Centre resident Crystal Dunn is selected first in soccer draft by Washington Spirit

Defender Crystal Dunn of USA brings the ball

Defender Crystal Dunn of USA brings the ball upfield against Mexico during the second half of an international friendly at RFK Stadium on Sept. 3, 2013. Photo Credit: Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA -- Few American soccer players turn pro ready to make an impact.

But Crystal Dunn just might be an exception because she is one exceptional and dynamic player.

The Washington Spirit certainly thought so because the team made the Rockville Centre resident the first pick of the National Women's Soccer League draft Friday.

Like it or not, Dunn faces some great expectations.

"She could be one of the best players ever for the U.S. There's no question," said Paul Riley, coach of the defending champion Portland Thorns and who coached Dunn as a youth player with the Albertson Fury. "She's a multitalented player. She can play many, many positions."

Dunn, 21, has been utilized as a defender on the star-studded U.S. women's team, for which she already has made eight appearances.

She has been an attack-minded midfielder and occasional forward while earning four successive first-team All-America honors for North Carolina, a perennial soccer power. Dunn won the 2013 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy as the best women's college player after leading the Tar Heels to the 2012 national championship, and finished second this year.

So Dunn's reputation and potential will dictate where Spirit coach Tom Parsons uses her on a team that finished 3-14-5 last season.

"It has to be where she can make the most influence because she has the ability to change games," he said. "We know the opposition will be keeping an eye on her and wanting to shut her down, so wherever tactically gives us the advantage to free her up and give the opportunity to do what she's best at, it's got to be close to the goal. We're looking at midfield or out wide."

That sounded fine to Dunn. "I'm definitely a flank player," she said. "Whether that's outside back, outside mid, maybe throw me on top to see if I can run around a little bit. Don't put me in the middle."

But while some soccer observers have put her on a pedestal, Dunn sounded more down to Earth.

"It's just an honor to be going as a first pick," she said at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "It was just an honor to be here. Hopefully, I'll help my future team make a mark in this league."

Dunn finds herself with much on her plate, from finishing up classes at North Carolina to national team commitments to a budding pro career.

"It's very stressful to think about too many things," she said. "I just like to live in the moment. If I am training with the national team, I'm focused with the national team. If I'm going to be training with D.C., I'm going to be focusing with that team. Just not to be overwhelmed is my key right now."

Dunn's opponents just might be saying the same thing about her.

New York Sports