On May 20, 2022, Crystal Dunn gave birth to her son, Marcel. Just 112 days later, she stepped back on the pitch in a professional soccer game. Forty-four days after that she came on as a substitute to play the final half-hour of a semifinal game that was tied at 1-1. By now, you probably know how that one ended.
Thirty-one minutes in, Dunn celebrated her first goal as a Mom, a 93rd-minute match-winner that sent Portland to the NWSL Championship game. The strike itself was a thing of beauty. The ball bounced around from a corner and eventually, a Wave defender tried to head the ball away from the box, but Dunn’s instincts kicked in.
She ghosted behind her defender then, accelerated toward the ball and caught it perfectly on the half volley, rocketing the ball through traffic and emphatically into the corner of the net. The stadium erupted as Dunn sprinted through a gauntlet of teammates trying to slow her down to celebrate and jump on her. Seriously, scroll back up and watch this goal to listen to the reaction.
Dunn’s goal was a tremendous moment that infused the aura of her soccer career with yet another burst of effervescence.
Dunn was an exceptional college soccer player who won the level’s highest honor (MAC Hermann trophy) in 2012, while also winning titles as the Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. In the pros, Dunn won the Golden Boot and MVP as a striker for the Washington Spirit. In North Carolina, Dunn was a key piece in a dynastic North Carolina Courage team, spending one season as a central midfielder and another as a wide forward. In 2019, Dunn was vital to the USWNT’s run to the World Cup, shutting down the best wingers in Europe while playing in her third or fourth-best position, left back.
Dunn’s match-winning goal, scored while on the pitch in a midfield position, was a thunderbolt that also served as a reminder of the full scope of her capabilities, just 75 minutes into her return.
Given all that we’ve witnessed her do and accomplish, it would seem impossible for her to surprise us – yet she keeps finding a way. There is, truly, only one Crystal Dunn.