MY GOODNESS, CRYSTAL DUNN!
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Oct. 24, 2022
Confession, I missed Sunday’s game because I have been battling a cold for a few days. (Thankfully, it’s not COVID-19, just a garden-variety cold). This is a particularly busy time of year, with the MLS playoffs, the NBA starting up and the Oregon Ducks’ college football team in the Top 25, and I can’t afford to get full-blown sick. I even fell asleep today randomly, which is why this is late!
It was a fun game! Taylor Kornieck scored for the Wave before Rocky Rodriguez’s banger and Dunn’s goal in stoppage time to seal up a MUCH NEEDED emotional win for the Thorns.
This was obviously a difficult year for the Thorns and their supporters. There was shock and hurt by the revelations in the Yates report and how the club handled allegations of harassment involving former coach Paul Riley. And there were also the Timbers’ actions surrounding an alleged domestic violence involving Andy Polo. The calls for Merritt Paulson to sell the team have only gotten louder.
But Sunday’s game felt different, like the clouds over the team had cleared — even if just for a day.
First-year Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson was among those expressing gratitude to the fans.
“I think it’s a new dawn, and the players needed it. They needed to see that they’re loved. And that the fanbase that is the best in the world and are so vocal and so demanding and in all the right ways — making sure that we’re leading here as a club. They also just need to be seen and heard. It’s hard for people to come to the stadium today, I understand that and some people couldn’t. But for the players that atmosphere today was something incredible and the joy that they felt from that, they brought it up in the huddle right after the game. The amazing moment that they were able to have with the fans that they love so much. So for those that were able to come I would like to thank them for making that moment so special to the team. I keep saying it — the last few weeks have been hard, the last two years. The majority of this group have been very, very heavy and I feel like it was just another, a new kind of extra connector between those two groups. The players and the fans.”
The upstart Current will face the Thorns in the final next Saturday at Audi Field. This game will feature two teams with compelling stories on national television. That’s a good thing all around, especially after all of the upheaval.
The World Cup draw happened in the middle of the night for most of us on Saturday. The United States is in a group with the Netherlands — the team the Americans beat in Lyon to win the last World Cup. The U.S. also has Vietnam in Group E along with one of the intercontinental playoff winners.
This is a very advantageous for the United States. The two-time defending champions and four-time overall winners are on the opposite side of the bracket as England, Germany and Canada. Netherlands is probably the most beatable among the top 10 teams.
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FIVE AT THE IX: CRYSTAL DUNN
Question: Your thoughts on the game?
Dunn: Man, it was definitely a game of two halves. I mean, our team in the beginning, we, missed a couple of passes, we really weren’t playing our game. I think in the second half, we had reset and we were allowed to just calm down, take a breather and just play our game. And toward the end of the game, we created a lot of chances. And so for me personally, I’m obviously happy that I was able to step into the game and make an impact and help my team go on to a final.
Question: How would you describe your emotions?
Dunn: I mean, it’s really hard for me to process that five months ago I gave birth and worked my way back to be available for these games, these last couple of games. But I really don’t feel like I took that much time away from soccer. I was always in the locker room with the girls. I was nine months pregnant showing up and everyone’s like, `What are you doing? Go home, you should not be here.’ But for me, it was always about just enjoying being an athlete, even if it meant I’m not competing at this moment. It meant still connecting with my teammates, supporting them every step of the way. And I think it’s a big reason why I just have felt supported, and I wanted to show the support in return to my teammates and just allowing me to be a part of the journey even if it meant that I was out for a little bit recovering from from delivery. This moment today it was just so special because it’s been a long year. It’s been a long, crazy year and I think my team has battled through a lot. And you know, for us going to a final it’s incredible.
Question: The moment that you scored the goal, what was going through your head when when the ball was at your feet and how would you describe just those seconds?
Dunn: I mean, the ball dropping in the middle of the goal. I was able to react and able to get there first. For me it was just about — everyone here knows, it’s like, you have to get on the frame. It’s the worst feeling ever when you strike a ball and it goes sailing into the stands here. I didn’t even give my teammates a chance to get something out of that. So for me, it was just striking the ball cleanly and getting it on frame and obviously seeing the ball go in the back of the net. I mean, scoring goals is not easy. That’s a reason why, you know, it’s very difficult to do and when you do do it you celebrate so hard with your with your teammates.
Question: How cathartic was that goal for yourself, for your teammates, for the club, given everything that’s gone on, not only the past month, but the past 13 months?
Dunn: Everybody knows it’s been a it’s been a long hard year for not just our club but for the whole entire NWSL and I think for us, every game we step into we remind each other that this game is fun. We we enjoy playing this game, we find so much joy in it. I think there have been things that sometimes make you feel like you can’t be your best version of yourself every single day. But I think stepping into a semifinal I mean, who’s not fired up to play in a semi final? These are moments that you can’t pass up and I’ve been a part of a lot of semis and a lot of finals. And these are moments where you kind of forget all the distractions and you just go out there and you work your hardest you put out the performance that you can the best performance you could possibly put out.
Question: Being a working mom is really hard. Has there been a moment over the last five months where you thought to yourself, What the hell am I doing? What am I doing to my body?
Dunn: That’s a great question. I think for me there was a part that thought, maybe I just take the rest of this year off. I’m like, May is that almost middle the year where I’ve missed a kind of a lot of the season, why don’t I just hit a reset and start fresh in 2023? But I think for me, I always wanted to end this year, the best way that I could. For nme that was working extremely hard to get back onto the pitch and even if I was only available for one game this year, it would have been worth it. So I think as an as elite athletes, we’re always used to pushing our bodies, exerting it to the absolute limit. And I think for me, doing what I was able to do, give birth, come back. I mean, these are stories that I believe that many women can do and I think we just need to encourage more of us to be able to walk this journey. It’s not easy but stepping off the field and be able to hold my child is exactly why I did all this.
Question: This this fan base has been through a lot in the last few months, 13 months, as Jeff alluded to, what did it mean to you to be able to deliver that moment?
Dunn: Our fans today were incredible. You know, I think when we heard that there were many, many people showing up today. It really allowed us to get hyped for this game. You know, our fans have been through a lot as well this year as well, along with players. I think them showing up is exactly what we want for this community. We want everyone to obviously be able to voice their opinion and be able to share their feelings but at the same time we also understand like without the fans, I mean, the game is just not as fun. And being able to deliver that moment today for them was just really special because we you know it just made me feel like you know, we’re all in this together. It’s a tough year, but we have lived and survived to fight for another game.
Question: Was was awake during her goal.
Dunn: I actually have to talk to my nanny, because a lot of times, he’s sleeping, and I’m like, ‘Your mom just subbed into a game, can you open those eyes of yours?’ But I want to believe he was awake. He’s now five months, he stays awake longer than when he was an infant, he just couldn’t keep his eyes open for the first couple months. Hopefully I’ll replay this moment for him when he’s a bit older.
Question: Your goal was similar to Rocky’s?
Dunn: Well, Rocky Rodríguez is a really special player for us. She’s incredibly gifted, and the goal she scored, first and foremost, was a huge momentum shift for us, getting us back in the game. She scores goals like that all the time in training, so for me, I was like, yes, this is the Rocky that everyone now is able to see. And her putting that ball in the back of the net was obviously just incredible for us to be able to hit reset and stay in the game, because it’s hard to trail, obviously, and I think we needed that goal right before the half ended.
Question What was Rhian Wilkinson’s message to her before she came into the game?
Dunn: Sometimes I hear what she says, and then I’m like, oh crap, I think I literally blacked out, but I want to say she just told me to be myself. I don’t have to do anything different than what I’ve been doing. To bring my energy, bring my leadership. I think those are things that I always come back to whenever I’m subbing into games, and since I’ve been back playing, I’ve been telling everybody, I almost feel like a rookie again. I’m like, oh my gosh, can I play soccer, what’s happening here? And everyone’s like, you just
missed a couple of months of soccer, you’re okay. So I think when I subbed in, she just gave me some
calming thoughts, just to say, do you. Be a leader out there, and just help us stay in the game, and create
Question: Has it been hard to feel joy lately with everything that’s going on?
Dunn: For me, I’m really fortunate to now be a mom during all of this. I think when I first thought of wanting to be a mom, I realized that it’s going to give you such a new perspective in life. These last couple of weeks I think I’ve been able to really survive because I know I have a smiley, happy baby to always go home to. Before I was a mom, if there was an off training, an off game, I was my worst critic. And I think now I kind of feel like I have more joy of playing this game. Since being out, I’m like, oh my God, I miss the game. Now I’m kind of like, [Marcel] doesn’t care if I missed a pass or missed a tackle or anything, so I think my perspective has completely changed. Going into the game, and these last couple of games with the Thorns, I’ve really been able to hit reset, and almost reinvent myself. As a player, I’m Ms. Versatile – I play multiple positions. I think every year I’m always hard on myself about what version of Crystal do they need me to be this time around. This year, I get to be myself. I get to be Marcel’s mom. I get to step on the field and almost be this new Crystal Dunn, which is kind of cool.”
(Editor’s note: so it was actually Ten at The IX. Are you complaining about it? I’m not.)
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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