The SheBelieves Cup rolls along as Crystal Dunn and Canada grab headlines

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Feb. 20, 2023

Here’s the GQ story on Crystal Dunn that caused a mini-stir this past week.

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I’m not sure I understand why, Dunn’s always been open about how it’s weird she plays as a defender for the national team, but as an attacker for the Thorns.

I think the difference was Vlatko Andonovski’s response: “As a left back she is world-class and probably one of the best left backs in the world. As a midfielder she has a pretty stiff competition in that position. So everybody has a choice. And then we make the decisions.”

OK, so kind of harsh. But still, a tempest in a teapot, as they say. Many pundits have been practically begging for a more attacking role for Dunn on the national team. I admit I’d like to see it, too.

You can read what Dunn said about the article (Read it! It’s good and the photos are awesome, too.) and her feelings below.

The Canadian national team, meanwhile, the subject of last week’s Soccer Monday, protested its federation by wearing purple T-shirts that said “Enough Is Enough” before its SheBelieves matches, a 2-0 loss to the United States and then a 2-0 victory over Brazil.

The team wore purple armbands on the pitch, because purple is the color of equality.

U.S. players joined in, as did some of Japan’s players. And the solidarity even spread to Europe.

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Here’s my overview of what’s happening in Canada from early last week.

An NWSL team in Nashville? Some think it’s a fine idea.

Casey Stoney on navigating camp in the international window, from Just Women’s Sports.

The Equalizer’s Blair Newman ponders Angel City’s fade last season.

Sandra Herrera of CBS Sports looks at Mallory Swanson’s surge ahead of the World Cup.

This is cute: Trinity Rodman brings young fan to tears.

Sophie Lawson is staying on top of the last World Cup qualification matches for ESPN.

Steph Yang and Meg Linehan address the Dunn article for The Athletic.

Thailand didn’t make the WWC field. Kind of sad, I was pulling for them after 2019.

Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch writes about Saudi Arabia using the WWC for sportswashing.

Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about Andi Sullivan.

Steven Goff from the Washington Post wrote about Crystal Dunn.

Tamerra Griffin for Pro Soccer Wire with a nice feature on Japan.

FIVE AT THE IX: Crystal Dunn

Crystal Dunn spoke about the GQ interview and being her authentic self during the SheBelieves Cup. Here’s what she said, and hat tip with my wonderful colleague Teresa Walker, our AP Sports Writer in Nashville, who got video for me.

Crystal Dunn at the SheBelieves Cup in Nasvhille

Question: Andonovski, he kind of said you hadn’t had a conversation about the article?

Dunn: Well I don’t think he asks people about the articles that they do. But yeah, I guess there’s some things that I guess people probably are questioning or whatever. But I think honestly, for me it’s really important that I’m always going to be my most authentic self. It’s not a secret that I’ve always struggled with identity on the field. I’m currently probably one of the very few players, if not the only player, that plays one position here and then goes into a club and plays a different position. And it’s not to say that I don’t tackle and embrace that challenge, but it’s not something that is necessarily easy or necessarily something that I absolutely love at all times.

So for me, it’s just being authentic to how I feel. I think when I was younger, it was easy to just say, `Oh, happy to always play wherever the coach needs me.’ And I think I’ve embraced my role 100% on this team, always competing to be the absolute best outside back I can possibly be. But the reality is I almost sometimes feel like I’m a part-time outside back, and I think that it’s important that people, know my story, hopefully inspire young girls at a young age to embrace the journey, but also know that it’s not easy, but it comes with its perks of seeing the field from different angles and understanding the game and having an appreciation of multiple positions on the field. And I think for me that’s really where I’m at right now, is just being able to kind of finally take a deep breath and say it’s okay to say that It’s a hard task and it’s challenging and it feels lonely at times because I look around and I’m like, `Man, I got to get into this mindset when I’m here and go back in the club and and be the best midfielder/forward, whatever it is that I’m playing there, at all times.’ And I think at the end of day, it’s not to say that I’m never grateful for being here or where I am on this team is just to say like it’s okay to also speak your truth and say like it’s hard, it’s a challenge and it’s lonely at times.

Question: Have you noticed a change in the way that you can approach the game now that you are being more vocal about these tensions that you’re dealing with?

Dunn: For sure. And I think it’s really just leaning into who I am as a as a player. I think at the end of day, it’s a part of me, it’s, it’s all that I know. And like I said, it just doesn’t mean that every year that goes by, it makes it easier. It’s more it’s one of those like you get older and you are like set in your ways and you’re like, oh, man, here I am again, kind of thing. But it’s really made me unique and special in my own way. As players, we all have our own journeys. And I think mine is that ability to say I’ve literally played anywhere on the field and that appreciation of the game and in such a different way, I know what it means to be this defender that has to mark the best forwards in the world. And I know what it’s also like to play in the midfield and have to like be crafty, creative and, you know, savvy on the ball and things like that.

I mean, I don’t know if there was a stir, but I think at the end day, anyone that knows me knows that I just like literally share how I feel and it’s just who I am. I love to express all the challenges because I think honestly, at the end of the day, it’s really about helping those generations that is coming up next to just say it’s okay to to have challenging moments but still embrace it, but still accept that it is a challenge. You know, you don’t have to say, oh, it’s hard, but that’s okay. That’s all right. I think it’s okay to say, no, it’s hard and I’m going to work at it. And it’s a working process every single day.

Question: Vlatko noted that the midfield competition is close and I’m just wondering how you feel about that notion that like you can choose where you want to compete.

Dunn: I just want to be clear. I am not choosing anywhere that I would like a different position. Like, I step into this environment, I know exactly what my role is. I know you know my strengths, and it’s not at all to say like, Hey, I am not happy. But I think it’s more so to say, this is how I feel internally at times and it’s okay to express that. It doesn’t mean that I’m trying to cause havoc or a stir or anything like that. I think at the end of day, it’s really just being authentic. And I think that’s really my message that I would love to make sure is very clear. It’s that its okay to just still say like, Hey, I love this position, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not giving my absolute everything for the position that I am playing in, or the role that I am given. It’s a blessing and it’s such an honor to obviously be in this environment and I never take that for granted. And so I think that that is the biggest message here, is that I love this team and I’m always willing to do whatever it takes, but I’m just sharing my most authentic parts of me is who I’m always going to be.

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Written by Annie Peterson