Saturday 16 April 2016, 15:21

Dunn: Youth tournaments increased my confidence

Regularly leaving defenders in her wake with her blistering pace and a consistently deft first touch, Crystal Dunn seemingly cannot stop scoring at the moment. With eight goals to her name in 2016 so far, she has been outperforming many of USA’s more established strikers. That is all the more impressive, considering Dunn has largely played at the back during her career at the youth international level.

However, having been in and out of the senior women’s national team picture for the past three years, the 23-year-old just missed out on glory at Canada 2015 as one of the last players cut from Jill Ellis’s USA squad ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ last summer. But that setback did not seem to bring Dunn down.

While her Stars and Stripes team-mates raised the trophy in Vancouver, Dunn set the NWSL scoring charts ablaze, which quickly resulted in Ellis bringing her back into the fold during qualifying for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016. Despite missing out on USA's Women’s World Cup triumph in 2015, Dunn has extensive international competitive experience at the youth levels, which she will surely utilise should she make the final squad for Rio 2016.

“Playing on those fields in those environments have allowed me to be comfortable and confident today,” Dunn told, referring to her time competing at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup New Zealand 2008 and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012. “Feeling all of those pressures at a young age definitely prepares you for later in life.

“I will always hold those experiences near to my heart. At 17, I was playing (Korea DPR) in the final. I looked around and thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ Obviously falling short was a disappointment but the experience is still there. And of course in Japan, with the 2012 team we took home the trophy. Beating Germany in the final is something I’ll always remember.”

The benefits gleaned from competing at such a high level at a young age have not been lost on some of the sport’s biggest stars. “I remember Abby (Wambach) talking to me about how she never had the experience of winning a youth international championship,” Dunn recalled. “She was actually a little upset about it. She would say ‘Oh man, I never got to have that experience at such a young age.’ Of course that didn’t stop her as she went on to bigger and better things!”

Dunn the DJ As Dunn explains, taking in those experiences – a second place finish at the inaugural U-17 Women’s World Cup and a winner’s medal at Japan 2012 with the U-20s – have indeed enabled the New York native to thrive in the senior women’s team squad. In fact, now that she has fully settled into the team, Dunn has taken on a difficult role within the senior side; a job that only a brave, seasoned team-mate, aware of the consequences of failure, would be willing to take on.

“I’m usually in charge of the music,’ she explains, with a bit of trepidation in her voice. “No one wants that job, it’s a lot of pressure! People are yelling ‘Kill the DJ!’ if you put on a bad song. But it’s a good way to get everybody going. I take pride in being the class clown, dancing around. People take videos of me – unfortunately. These are very stressful environments, playing with elite players. So, I like to have as much fun as I possibly can.”

While she is clearly not afraid to lighten the mood in the dressing room, Dunn is also aware she is quickly becoming part of the Americans’ core group of players that will lead the team on the march to France 2019 and beyond. Speaking about the group she played with at the youth level, including the likes of Morgan Brian, Julie Johnston and Sam Mewis, who are now once again team-mates at the senior level, Dunn exudes confidence and trust in those around her.

“I’m so trustworthy of the players on the team that I’ve played with on the youth level,” Dunn said. “I think we collectively have a good head on our shoulders. We’re all team players and I think our future is very bright.”