Fit, Focused, and Black Lives: Crystal Dunn Preps for Rio

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Much can change in the course of year. No one knows that any better than Crystal Dunn.

Last July the US women’s national team celebrated their third FIFA Women’s World Cup after 16 years, it was a momentous occasion that Dunn just narrowly missed. In a post-game celebratory interview, Abby Wambach still praised Dunn’s efforts even though she was cut from the final roster.

After missing out on the World Cup, Dunn utilized the NWSL as platform for herself. She went on a scoring spree, netting 15 goals for the Washington Spirit helping lead them into the NWSL playoffs for a semi-final match. She was awarded the NWSL golden boot winner for 2015. Her outstanding play led to more national team call-ups for the US victory tour, CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, and the She Believes Cup.

She has shown she is ready to make the leap onto the international stage that is the Olympics.

Backline Soccer was able to discuss the Olympics, NWSL, and current social issues with Dunn before an Olympic friendly in Chicago. Rio is right around the corner, and with a roster yet to be named, Dunn remains focused on her Olympic dream despite the headlines around.

Backline Soccer: Can you talk to us about preparing for the Olympics in Rio in the middle of the NWSL season?

Crystal Dunn: A lot of us here are 9 games deep in the league, it’s a lot of games. I think coming into this camp we all knew our legs might not even fully be where they need to be just because of the season we’ve had so far. Surprisingly, in the first few days we   were here we just clicked instantly, and sometimes that doesn’t happen at camp. You know we’re playing all over the field, and with different teams, and different players. Sometimes when you come into camp it’s so hard to get readjusted with everything, but this 9-day camp has been great so far. We’ve clicked, like I said. We’re all just so focused on the goal at hand and ready to have these sendoff games so we can be prepared for Rio.”

BS: It’s amazing what can happen in just a year. Going from the World Cup and falling short of making the roster there. Fast forward to this year with you being on the cusp of Rio. To be honest, you’re looking like you’ve got a pretty good shot to make the roster. Does the NWSL help play a part in keeping you fit and prepared for international tournaments?

CD: “For me, the league is the most intense league, I think. Just with the athleticism that’s in this league, you’re not really catching a break for 90 minutes. I think its prepared me really well. I feel fit. I feel healthy. I’ve been playing against really great players in the league, which has always prepared me for coming into national camps.”

BS: So, last season you went off on a scoring spree in the NWSL. We’re currently at the season midway point, and you have had some awesome assists. However, there may be some out there who think you’re not where you should be in terms of goals. Have you had to adjust your play a bit in preparation for Rio?

CD: “You know a lot of people ask how do you feel this year as opposed to that year, and it’s crazy to think that before last season – it’s not like I was on the radar for goal scoring. So I think that people have a way of kind of twisting what they think they know about the game and things like that. But I’ve also never had 4 assists in a season, you know? So, if they were to ask what’s this season like compared to last, I’d say I think I’m doing pretty well. Just for the fact that I’ve probably set a new goal now. I don’t have to be that person that’s going to score goals, but if I’m making other players around me look better, and play better then I think that’s exactly what I need to be doing. As a teammate I need to just wait for my moment and if a goal comes for me, then a goal comes. But at the end of the day if my team is winning then I would never sit and pout in a corner. [laughs]”

BS : Well said! Finally, I want to touch on something before we close. The other day Sydney Leroux put out a really awesome post on her blog, touching on some of the really sad things that have been going on the few days..

CD: “Oh YES.”

BS: Do you have any words of consolement? Or any words of advice for young girls of color who maybe woke up this morning feeling unsafe or uncomfortable in their own skin?

CD: “Yes. You know it’s crazy that all this is going on. I think not many things have been said about it. I think that’s the kind of disappointing stage. I think it’s crazy that when Orlando happened everyone kind of took a deep breath and was running to everyone’s call, and I feel like that’s great. I was one of those people that was like, this is a terrible thing that has happened in our country, we all need to be unified in this. But I think that the shootings that have been going on have been going on for years. I feel like people are now not even still waking up about the situation. Just as a Black woman on the national team I feel like this is something that needs to be said. You know, there’s not many of us that have been on this team. I always talk to Syd about these things. She’ll ask ‘Crys how do you feel?’ and I’ll say ‘I feel the same way as you.’ It’s just that I don’t know what can be done. I don’t know what words to truly say. I don’t want to make this about race because that happens a lot of the time. But I do think that the issues that are going on are a lot deeper than what people really think. So you know, it’s upsetting knowing that not that many people want to speak up on this issue that’s going on in our country.”

(Christen Press and Crystal Dunn | Source: Sandra Herrera @SandHerrera_)

The US women’s national team faced another Olympic bound team, South Africa on July 9. Some predicted an uneven match with the number 1 ranked FIFA team going up against the 52 ranked FIFA team. The game ended with a 1-0 score line with USA as the victors. Crystal Dunn scored the lone goal.

 

*This article was published back in July 2016 on Midfield Press. The Author has granted republishing on Backline Soccer*