MAKING IT CRYSTAL CLEAR Dunn says she will focus as she juggles, school, national team and now a pro career
PHILADELPHIA -- Attending classes at the University of North Carolina.
Playing with the U.S. Women's National Team.
And now a budding professional soccer career.
Rockville Centre, N.Y. native Crystal Dunn certainly finds her plate to be full, if not overloaded these days, especially after she was selected by the Washington Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League draft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Friday morning. Dunn was the No. 1 pick in the four-round draft, in which 36 players were taken.
Dunn, who starred for the Alberton Fury and South Side High School on Long Island, said that she will take it "just one day at a time. I try not to get too overwhelmed at this point."
"It's very stressful to kind of think about too many things," she said after she was selected. "I just like to live in the moment. If I am training with the national team, I'm focused with the national team. If I'm going to be training with D.C., I'm going to be focusing with that team. Just not to be overwhelmed is my key right now."
Given her outstanding background, Dunn is expected to be an impact player in the NWSL right off the bat. After all, she is a four-time All-America selection out of the University of North Carolina. She won the 2013 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy in 2013 and was one of three finalists this year.
Dunn's versatility makes her a double threat. She was an attacking wing midfielder for the Tar Heels in her later years after winning Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year in back-to-back seasons. She has been deployed as a defender during her national team matches.
Spirit coach Tom Parsons said he will determine what position Dunn will be able to make her biggest impact.
"It has to be where she can make the most influence on the game because she has the ability to change games," he said. "We'll have to figure that out in pre-season. We've got a lot of players who can play a lot of positions. Crystal, we know the opposition will be keeping an eye on her and wanting to shut her down, so wherever tactically gives us the advantage to free her up and give the opportunity to do what she's best at. Wherever that is, it's got to be close to the goal for me. If we're looking at midfield or out wide, it has to be because if she's near the goal, she will be able to do what she does best to win us games."
And that sounded just fine to Dunn.
"I'm definitely a flank player," she said. "I would definitely like to play somewhere outside on the flank. Whether that's outside back, outside mid, maybe throw me on top to see if I can run around a little bit, we'll see. Definitely on the flanks, though. Don't put me in the middle."
She laughed. But trying to mark Dunn certainly has not been a laughing matter at all. She was one of the most dynamic, if not the most dynamic player in college the past few years.
And that's why Parsons wasn't going to trade the very first pick in the draft for an established player or players.
"Picking up Crystal obviously was a priority," Parsons said. "There was no way we would consider changing that for any current NWSL player in the league, any USA allocated player. What she brings as a player, we already know. The stuff that i will get to know is what she brings in regards to her character, her personality, her desire, her passion and her ability that Anson [Dorrance, North Carolina coach] has told us about, her teammates have told us about makes this one of the biggest picks in a long time. So there was no way we were even going to think of anything. We're very excited. She's obviously going to impact us on the pitch."
While he was an obvious No. 1 overall pick, Dunn was just happy to be selected.
"I'm just excited on trying to make a mark on this new league," she said. "I think it's been great. I'm just hoping help the ... I'm super excited to be here. It's just an honor to be going as a first pick. It was just an honor to be here in general. There are so many great players in this league. Just the level of this league is going to be keep improving. I'm glad to be a part of it and hopefully I'll help my future team make a mark in this league."