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Crystal Dunn selected to compete for U.S. National Team at FIFA Women’s World Cup

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South Side High School graduate Crystal Dunn, pictured playing for the North Carolina Courage, was selected to play in her first FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next month.
South Side High School graduate Crystal Dunn, pictured playing for the North Carolina Courage, was selected to play in her first FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next month.
COURTESY MARCO ROSA

Rockville Centre’s Crystal Dunn was among 23 players named last week to the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next month.

Head coach Jill Ellis made the announcement on May 2. Dunn was one of seven defenders listed on the roster, which will become official when it is submitted to FIFA on May 24. The news came four years after Dunn was left off the U.S. team’s World Cup roster in 2015.

“Can’t say I haven’t waited for this moment,” Dunn wrote on Twitter after the announcement. “I’ve.Stayed.Ready.”

Dunn, 26, a South Side High School graduate who helped lead the Cyclones to state titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009, was part of the U.S. team that won the 2012 FIFA under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan. She went on to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team the following year, and, since 2013, has scored 24 goals for the squad in 83 appearances. 

Playing for the North Carolina Courage last year, Dunn had eight goals and seven assists, leading the team to a championship in the National Women’s Soccer League. She has started the 2019 season strong, notching a team-high four goals in the squad’s first three games. 

“She’s better than she ever was,” said Judi Croutier, Dunn’s high school coach. “Each year she’s just gotten better and better. She’s just worked so hard and put all the time in, and it’s paying off for her now.”

Last Thursday, the day the World Cup roster was released, Dunn took a break to visit Rockville Centre, where she could be seen around the village filming a “Hometown Heroes” segment presented by Coca-Cola. She stopped by South Side High School, where, in three seasons — she didn’t play for the Cyclones in 2008 due to U.S. Youth National Team commitments — she scored 46 goals and had 35 assists. In the 2009 state championship game, Dunn scored four goals, notching a hat trick in the first 20 minutes of the match.

On May 2, she was greeted by students, met by  members of the girls’ soccer team and reunited with two of her mentors, Joanna Zweben and Brian Manolakes. 

“She’s a celebrity,” said Manolakes, a business teacher who had Dunn as a student when she was a sophomore, and has kept in touch with her since she graduated in 2009. “Ten years later she walks in and every kid in the building knows who she is.”

However, he added, “She treats everybody the same way she did when she was in 10th grade. None of it’s gotten to her head.”

Dunn also visited Zweben, a school counselor at South Side for 22 years who recalled meeting with Dunn to help her regroup with schoolwork when she would return from soccer trips while she was playing on the youth national team. Though it was difficult at times for her not to live the life of a typical teenager, she said, Dunn saw the “bigger picture.”

“Within an hour of her leaving, we saw the post that she got named on the team   . . . so we were just super excited about that,” Zweben told the Herald. “Crystal really never wavered in her goal. She always knew that the road might be difficult and long, but she always stayed steadfast to her dream of playing soccer as long as she could.”

Crystal’s father, Vincent, who still lives in Rockville Centre, said that it was a “devastating blow” for his daughter not to be selected for the World Cup team in 2015, adding that it was the first major setback in her playing career. She was able to counter that adversity, though, he said, with hard work. 

“It’s something obviously she wanted, and you’re always happy for your child to achieve a dream that she wants,” Vincent said. “You never count your chickens . . . but a lot of the things were pointing to her having a role on this team.” 

Dunn’s family moved to the village when she was 2, and she started playing soccer when she was 4, her father recalled. “She’s a product of the Rockville Centre youth soccer program,” he said. “Rockville Centre has always been big for her.” The support from the community along the way has been strong, he added, recalling the send-off ceremony the village held for Crystal in 2016 at the Rockville Centre Sports Complex before she left to compete in the Olympics with the U.S. women’s team in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think for Rockville Centre soccer, she’s such a great role model,” said Croutier, who was among those at the 2016 send-off, noting the students’ excited reactions to seeing her last week. “Now, it’s just like another step. It’s another milestone for her to get to play.”

Vincent said that he, his wife, Rhonda, and Crystal’s husband, Pierre Soubrier, plan to go to France to support her. Many more in Rockville Centre will be watching, too.

The Americans will face South Africa on May 12, New Zealand on May 16 and Mexico on May 26 before heading to the World Cup to face Thailand, Chile and Sweden in Group F starting June 11.

“Selecting a World Cup team is a long process, and I want to thank the players,” Ellis said in a statement on the U.S. Women’s National Team website. “These 23 players have been through adversity and success, and it’s a group that has the talent, confidence, experience and desire to help us win the World Cup.”