February 20, 2016
HER PATH IS CRYSTAL CLEAR
Dunn excited about qualifying for the Olympics
By Michael Lewis
|Crystal Dunn: "I'm super excited. I think the team performed really well tonight. So it's obviously good to qualify to go out with a bang."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HOUSTON, Texas -- A year after missing out on playing at the Women's World Cup in Canada, Crystal Dunn has an opportunity to participate at the Rio Summer Olympics this summer.
The United States clinched an Olympic spot for the sixth consecutive time Friday night with a 5-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago. The Americans and Brazil are the only countries to qualify every time.
Dunn? She just wants to experience it at least once.
"I'm super excited," the Rockville Centre, N.Y. native said at BBVA Compass Stadium. "I think the team performed really well tonight. So it's obviously good to qualify to go out with a bang. We still have one more game, but it's very soothing that we booked our ticket."
She was one of the final cuts for the U.S. team that won the 2015 Women's World Cup crown in Canada. Instead of moping, Dunn went out and led the National Women's Soccer League in scoring and being named league MVP as an all-star with the Washington Spirit.
Even though she equaled a team record by scoring five goals in the 10-0 victory over Puerto Rico, the one-time South Side High School standout found herself on the bench for the clincher.
USA head coach Jill Ellis said she talked to Dunn prior to the semifinal match.
"Crystal's an impact player," she told the media. "I told her before the game, 'You're the game changer.' "
But for the first 66 minutes, Dunn was on the sidelines as 17-year-old Mallory Pugh started in her place. Dunn was more up than down, warming up on the sidelines for a good part of the opening half before she replaced team captain Carli Lloyd midway through the second half.
"We have a great team with players that bring so many different things to the table," said U.S. striker Alex Morgan, who secured a hat-trick in the match. "So I think you have to look at each game one at a time and that's what Jill saw the strengths of certain players and how they break down Trinidad, so Mallory came in and really well.
"When Crystal came in, she did well as well. It is tough, I imagine, scoring five goals and then not playing the following game. I give her credit for coming positively and help the team secure that win."
Dunn? She is just happy to be part of the team, a world championship team that is aiming for its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
"I've been getting playing time and playing time I have been given, I have been capitalizing on it," she said. "It's an intense environment at all times. You don't know when you're going to play or when you're not, so you've just got to be prepared."
The one-time Albertson Fury and Rockville Centre Tornado standout at the youth level had one close scoring opportunity as she pushed a shot wide right in the 86th minute.
"I was super close. It was a great ball by Kling," said Dunn, referring to left back Meghan Klingenberg's feed. "I tried to see it all the way through. It's OK."