Crystal Dunn is the reigning National Women’s Soccer League MVP, but to call the Washington Spirit forward’s game a finished product is to ignore the enormity of her potential.
At just 23 years old -- and fresh off a 15-goal NWSL campaign -- Dunn’s ceiling is as high as any player in women’s soccer.
“I did have a chip on my shoulder last year,” Dunn admits of her motivation after being left off last summer’s U.S. World Cup team. “But this year is just about being an overall complete player.”
“I think passing is actually probably the weakest element of my game,” Dunn acknowledged. “So for me having four assists already this year, I’m excited about that."
Dunn’s four assists are not only a career-high, but second-most in the NWSL behind only U.S. Women’s National Team star Tobin Heath. With opponents concentrating much of their defensive effort on Dunn, those around her are beginning to benefit.
“She’s been very impactful this year,” said Spirit Head Coach Jim Gabarra. “She hasn’t gotten the goals she’s had [in the past] but she draws so much attention it creates so many opportunities for other players.”
While Dunn’s improved distribution has indeed helped propel the Spirit to a 5-1-2 start, it will also help preserve her place in the ultra-competitive national team pool. With a limited 18-woman roster for the upcoming Olympics, players with versatility will almost certainly have a leg up when U.S. Coach Jill Ellis has to make final roster decisions.
“It’s something the national team has asked us to help her with,” Gabarra said of Dunn’s passing. “She’s going to get better and I think she’s going to adjust to playing a little different style than she played last season.”
Dunn has yet to score an NWSL goal in 2016, but her eight international goals since January 1st suggest the University of North Carolina product’s scoring touch is still very intact.
“I'm prepared for anything,” Dunn says when asked about her potential role at the Olympics. "I’ve been told I’m going to play wide. I actually played the ten for a couple minutes [in a recent friendly against Japan]. My role is just to be ready when the coach needs me - and whatever she asks of me, hopefully I can deliver."