February 15, 2016
A VERY HIGH FIVE
Crystal Dunn enjoys a career night in her very short U.S. national team career with 5 goals
By Michael Lewis
|Crystal Dunn: "I can't believe I'm amongst some really great names. This is a very important moment for me. It's not like itís easy to score this many goals. So I'm going definitely hold this dear to my heart."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
FRISCO, Texas -- Incredible as it may sound, Crystal Dunn had never scored five goals in a competitive match.
Not with the Albertson Fury, the University of North Carolina, any of the U.S. women's youth teams and not even when she won the National Women's League scoring crown and MVP honors last year.
That is, until Monday night.
Playing a forward position, Dunn found the back of the net five times in the United States' 10-0 romp over Puerto Rico, a result that secured first place in Group A and ensured the Americans of playing the Group B runner-up in Friday's semifinals in Houston. That could very well be Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago for one of two confederation spots in the Rio Summer Olympics.
In a virtuoso performance, the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native enjoyed a career night in her extremely short U.S. national team career. Her five goals doubled her international production to 10 as the one-time Albertson Fury standout became the seventh player in USWNT history to score five goals in a game, joining the ranks of Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux.
Pretty lofty company.
Dunn even had some fun with the media.
"I was mad I didn't score one more," she said. "I was like, ĎI'm tied with everybody.í "
Of course, she was kidding. Dunn admitted that she didn't know anything about the mark. In fact, she was told of her record-tying performance by U.S. Soccer women's national team press officer Aaron Heifetz after the match.
"I can't believe I'm amongst some really great names," she said. "This is a very important moment for me. It's not like itís easy to score this many goals. So I'm going definitely hold this dear to my heart."
That's because she had never accomplished that feat before.
"I mean, if I scored five goals, it was not like within the last 15 years," Dunn said. "I cannot remember. Five goals is a lot. If I'm scoring five goals often, there is a problem. Not with me but the other teams. But yeah, this was especially a special moment. Super-excited. Going forward me personally my confidence is up, I'm feeling good. Hopefully all of our confidence is up and we can move that forward going to the next game."
Granted, the goals were against a team that participated in a CONCACAF competition for the first time in almost two decades, but as former U.S. international Ante Razov once said: If it was easy to score goals, then everybody would be doing it.
For someone who is only 23, Dunn's story is pretty well known. She was one of the final cuts from last year's U.S. team that won the Women's World Cup.
She returned to her club, the Washington Spirit, and never lost her Spirit, taking out whatever frustrations and disappointment she had against NWSL rivals. She finished with a league-best 15 goals and was recalled to the national side by head coach Jill Ellis.
"She's always had a fantastic attitude and a willingness," Ellis said. "That's a big strength for her, her inner character. The difference was probably coming off a season where she had great success ... and sometimes that magic ingredient is confidence. And a player comes in here and they believe in themselves and obviously highly motivated because she was so close.
"I think one of the first things i said to her was continue to believe in what you do because honestly that was the difference for when she came in prior and we ended up not selecting her. She believes that she belongs in here. She is working very hard. It's the self-belief is a really big common denominator for several of the players."
Now, Dunn isn't just anybody. She is a dynamic, young player who comes speed, quickness, a quick soccer mind and a pretty solid shot into an imposing 5-3 player who can wreak havoc on opposing teams. She demonstrated that in the U.S.'s 5-0 demolition of Costa Rica in the opening match last week. Dunn started the scoring sequence on Alex Morgan's goal 12 seconds into the match, tallied the second goal and set up the third goal, a penalty kick by Carli Lloyd, when she was fouled in the 18-yard-box.
She did not fare as well in the 1-0 win over Mexico Saturday as the former South Side High School star was replaced at halftime.
"It was a game where there was not much space," Ellis said. "Crystal was out wide and I definitely wanted to see some things from some other people. If you ask Crystal, there are certain things in the wide areas that she wants to continue to improve on. It is really hard when the teams play a back five and there is no space wide and that's just more experience in dealing with that kind of opponent. I think that's the next step for Crystal ... to find the space."
If Dunn does that, there's no telling how effective she might be.
On one night, though, five goals were more than enough.