Crystal Dunn appreciation post! And today’s two U.S. Soccer announcements
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Sept. 12, 2022
Editor’s Note: Here is some Classic Annie Peterson, as Annie continues her men’s World Cup duties. Annie will be back next week with a year-end Soccer Monday. And Joey Dillon will be in your inboxes tomorrow with a brand-new Tennis Tuesday!)
Those of you who are regular The IX readers know that I’m a mom. I’ve got two great kids, Evelyn and Eddie. I had Ev when I was 36, and Eddie came two years later.
I worked up right up until a week before I gave birth the first time. In fact, I covered a San Francisco 49ers game.
But after both kids, it took me a looooonnnnngggg time to get back to normal. Breastfeeding made me feel top heavy and a little bit off balance all the time. My feet inexplicably grew a size for a while. I had gained way too much weight (65 pounds!) on orange soda and ice cream sandwiches, my pregnancy cravings.
Here’s what I definitely could not do in four months: Soccer.
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That’s why I don’t believe Crystal Dunn is human. She’s more like … (Oh, and no one under the age of 40 is gonna get this. LOL)
So yeah, I’m in awe of Crystal Dunn. But I don’t think I’m the only one.
“I mean she’s not fully back yet but she’s not far off. And what a phenom. I’m so impressed by her,” said Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson.
Here’s what Meghan Klingenberg said after Dunn came in for the final minutes of the Thorn’s 2-0 victory over the Orlando Pride on Friday night. The win, by the way, put Portland back on top of the NWSL standings — for a little bit. The Current’s win over Gotham on Sunday popped them into the lead.
“Our Thorns baby mama is incredible. She’s the ultimate team player. She’s the ultimate hard worker. And it’s nice to see her have her moment, because I think a lot of times Crystal doesn’t get her moment. But this was a Crystal moment and I love being a part of it because she steps on the field and creates a huge difference. She is dynamic. She is always turning forward. She is crafty, and boy does she work hard on defense,” Klingenberg said. “But it’s a joy playing with her and I’m just so happy to be a part of her comeback game and looking forward to her getting more minutes. I think as we get that caliber of player back in our lineup, getting minutes, getting touches, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, which is only going to make our team better and that’s going to be scary.”
So here’s the next question: Will Crystal see time on the field for the USWNT against England?
Here’s what Vlatko Andonovski said last week before the second game against Nigeria.
“In my mind she’s ready to play. We don’t know exactly how many minutes but I would not be surprised if we see her on the field anytime soon. Obviously that will be something that Portland Thorns will have to evaluate and see if she is going to get any minutes or not. But she looks great. She trains very well every day and she’s as ready, as fit, as intense, she’s as enthusiastic, is always an energetic. I just love having Crystal back in camp.”
We’ll see. But there’s also a bit of breaking news this morning connected to the England match:
Yes, the USWNT will play in Spain on the trip.
There was also some late breaking news from U.S. Soccer about the Sally Yates investigation into the NWSL. It’s good to see that the report will be published in full, which we should expect in “early October.”
One last thing I’ll add:
There is a website called Essentially Sports, which looks to be basically a click-bait venture out of India that is just churning out a bunch of negative stuff about Megan Rapinoe. Avoid it.
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Here’s what Dunn had to say after her return!
Question: Can you just talk about your emotions coming back three months and 20 days since giving birth?
Dunn: I think I visualized this moment for a really long time, just thinking about how I was going to feel when I first stepped on the field. And I think I just tried to keep it simple. To me, I’ve been training full for a while now. I went in with the national team, which was really great for me. And I think coming to this moment I was just like, `Crystal, you’re soccer player. Just play soccer, play simple. Provide value in the way that you can.’ Obviously I’m not as fit as I could be, but to me I was like if I’m gonna play the last 10 or 15 minutes of the game, I’m going to really provide all the energy and effort that I possibly can to make sure that we pulled up the game the way we can.
Question: I just wanted to ask you how you feel about the contribution that you were able to make given given the time off and how you felt just running end to end for the first time in a while and in a game setting?
Dunn: I think throughout my pregnancy, it was really important for me to stay close to the team and to train pretty much up until my due date. And I think that really helped me be exactly where I am today, which is on the field, three-plus months back with the team, and I feel good. I think everyone’s pregnancy journey and everyone’s journey into motherhood is so different and I think for me, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to get out of my pregnancy and also what it was gonna look like postpartum. And I think for the most part, I’m exactly where I really thought I’d be. Obviously you never know after delivery, but I think for me, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of supporting people, you know, my teammates, my coaching staff, and obviously my husband, my athletic trainer, who has really supported me along the way.
Question: And what was that like these last few months with Pierre and the whole dynamic of you being the competitor that you are and really wanting to get back out there but balancing that with the obvious stuff.
Dunn: I mean number one in our relationship is respect. I think obviously, he is my husband, but he’s my athletic trainer. He’s really knowledgeable of the return to play process. And I think, for me, I had to really respect that he knows his job well. And there were times where he was telling me `Hey, you can’t do this today. Gotta take it slow.’ And I was like grrr. But ultimately I was like, `OK, you’re right. I will basically just trust the process.’ And he’s been great. He’s been awesome, very knowledgeable of his job, obviously, and just really helped me every step of the way.
Question: A lot of people after they give notice that their bodies aren’t quite the same. Is there anything that like, isn’t the same with you or that you’re having to adjust to?
Dunn: Honestly, I feel like returning to play after being out for a long time, whether you’re out on maternity leave or you’ve been out with a long term injury, I feel like people are expecting you to feel the same. And I’m like, `You know what? I’m never going to be the same again. I went through childbirth, there’s no going back to Crystal before getting birth.’ And I feel like throughout my pregnancy journey, I spent a lot of time in the weight room — which those that know me know that I despised the weight room. I think what it’s done for me was actually allowed me to build back stronger in ways that I wasn’t really able to do before. Obviously, everyone knows when you play on the national team and you also play club, you rarely have a lot of time off. And I think taking a pause and really embracing pregnancy, I think I actually allowed me to build muscle back stronger than before. And so when I stepped on the field today, I actually felt pretty strong and pretty confident and fit. Obviously, not as fit as 90 minutes fit at this moment. But I do think I was fit enough to be confident in providing value to my team today.
Question: It was about 10 or 11 minutes on the pitch and we saw you there and that central position pushing higher. What was the discussion between you Rhian Wilkinson about the goals that you wanted to set for tonight and what you wanted to see from yourself out there.
Dunn: Honestly there really wasn’t a lot of discussion. I’m really fortunate that Rhian put me on the roster for this game. Obviously, there wasn’t even a talk of whether I was getting into tonight’s game or not. And I think she trusted that I was professional enough to not ask questions and not also expect to play. At the end of the day, what’s best for the team is what’s best for the team. And I think, being up 2-0 when I was about to sub in, you know, she said a few words of basically encouragement and saying she’s happy that I’m back. But I was given my task at hand and my job was to come into the field and help close the game out. And so that was just me providing max effort in every single run and keeping possession. And I was really happy and fortunate that was able to do that.
Question: The league is maybe not a perfect place to be a mom but it’s becoming better, through the PA and things like that. There are seen it seems like there are more moms now around the league. Is there anyone that you’ve reached out to for whether it’s training advice, or being a mom with in the league advice or anything like that?
Dunn: Honestly, to be fair, I really didn’t reach out to a whole lot of moms just because everyone’s journey is so different. And yes, there’s a lot of wisdom that can be thrown in my direction. But I think ultimately, when I do speak to moms in the league, everyone’s experience and story is so wildly different. And I think it was really important for me to find comfort in knowing what I expected out of motherhood and how I wanted to navigate getting back onto the field onto the pitch. I mean, we all make our return at so many different times of the year. I think I’m relatively on maybe the earlier end of returning back but I think it’s just important to really understand that everyone’s journey is so different. I didn’t really want to ask a whole lot of questions of moms just so that I personally wasn’t feeling like ‘Oh, I have to compare and contrast like my journey to somebody else’s.’ But obviously, you know, spending time on the national team, me and Alex Morgan had a great conversation about this motherhood and what it was like for her when she was a new mom and and there’s a lot of similarities, but there’s also a lot of differences as well.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
|By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
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