Winning the Women’s World Cup was a double triumph for Crystal Dunn.
Not only did the Rockville Centre native prove she could play left back at the highest level of the game, she also outbattled many of the best right-sided players on the planet.
Dunn appeared with her teammates for a parade in the Canyon of Heroes in New York City Wednesday morning. (Herald coverage to follow.)
The former South Side High School and Rockville Centre Soccer Club standout — who made her reputation scoring and creating goals — helped the United States concede only three goals in seven matches. That included an epic battle against French forward Kadidiatou Diani as Dunn gave away at least four inches and who knows how many pounds, but no goals in a 2-1 quarterfinal win.
“Dunnie had some of the best players in the world on that right side,” head coach Jill Ellis said during the post-game press conference after the United States defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, in last Sunday’s final in Lyon, France. “She’s done incredibly well. As good as she is, she’s still on a growth pattern. She’s world-class, but I think she would be the first to say that she wants to continue to [improve] as a world-class left back.”
Dunn did not see much action on the offensive end Sunday, but did her job in the back. “In terms of neutralizing threats, she was fantastic,” Ellis said. “What I love about Dunnie is that she is willing to do anything for this team. We’ve used her as a left winger, a center mid, which was done in the past, or as a left back. She has embraced that.”
Dunn is clearly a versatile women’s soccer player. She won the National Women’s Soccer League scoring title and secured MVP honors playing forward for the Washington Spirit in 2015. She was the midfield mastermind of the North Carolina’s National Women’s Soccer League championship side last year. And now, she has excelled as a defender in the World Cup.
“I’m proud of myself,” Dunn said. “Whenever I have doubt, I always realize that I am the only one who is in this unique position. I’m the only one who can switch and play into a different position and be ready that very same day and rise to the occasion.”
A former member of the Rockville Centre Power and Rockville Centre Tornadoes (Long Island Junior Soccer League), Dunn heard critics question whether she could do the job in the WWC.
“Throughout the World Cup, I do feel like people were kind of doubting my ability to play that role,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve given anyone a reason to kind of give me that stance.
“I feel like my team supported me and that’s all that I really listened to,” she continued. "Once I had the support of my teammates and my staff members, I never really doubted myself. I came up against world-class forwards. Outside back is not my primary position. I’m walking away from this World Cup with my head held high. I think I’ve proven to myself and everybody out there whoever thought I wasn’t fit for the job, I’m a world champion because I am fit for the job.”
So was the rest of the American squad, which won all seven matches while facing some adversity. “It was incredible,” Dunn said. “The team performance throughout the World Cup was the hardest route we ever had to go through. Limited rest, top opponents — we had to get through every single round. It was just the feeling of togetherness. Once that whistle blew, we felt like we did this all together. It wasn’t 11 people; it wasn’t 14 people. It was everyone trying to push each other to be at our best in preparation for every single game.”