Crystal Dunn will play in her second World Cup this summer with the U.S. women’s national team. This time, though, the 30-year-old is slotting in as one of the veterans.
Her role as one of the more experienced USWNT stars is “pretty scary and kind of wild and crazy,” she admitted to Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis on the latest episode of Snacks. Still, she also knows she’ll bring the benefit of her years on the international stage and in the club environment with her to Australia and New Zealand.
“I think something that comes with age is the capacity that you have to kind of deal with and cope with many different things,” Dunn said. “When I was young stepping onto the team, all I could focus on was training. All I could focus on was where I was in that moment because I didn’t have the headspace and the capacity to do anything outside of me playing soccer.”
Dunn has spent 10 years as a member of the senior national team, having received her first call-up in January 2013 and making her debut in February of the same year. Since then, Dunn has dealt with injuries and disappointments, including a 2015 World Cup snub, as well as victories and awards, including the 2019 World Cup title, three NWSL championships and 2021 Concacaf Player of the Year.
In total, she has amassed 131 appearances for the USWNT, playing as an outside back despite her natural abilities as a midfielder. But for Dunn, that comes with the territory.
“On our club team, we’re used to playing in systems that are built around our strengths. And I think when we go to the national team, that’s not always the case,” she said. “It’s not always a system that’s built around your strengths. It’s not always a system that’s built to elevate you or have you shine. It’s always going to be a system that’s about ‘What do we need to win a World Cup?’”
She missed time with the USWNT in 2022 due to pregnancy. While she continued to train with the Portland Thorns, her absence left her feeling less connected to the national team. She returned to the team in October 2022, just four months after the birth of her son Marcel, and at times she felt like she had to reintroduce herself to younger players who came up while she was away.
“It was definitely different and a new challenge for me,” she said. “I think that’s when I realized like I’m getting old, because now I have to really get to know these young gals and know what the latest hip things are these days.”
(Among the notable “hip things” is TikTok, which Dunn said became popular during her pregnancy. She’s attempted to understand it in an effort to bond with younger teammates.)
Still, her leadership role is something she has embraced, especially as she has become a new mom, and she’s loved getting to watch younger players grow. Going from focusing on the game to focusing on her team, she said, has come with age.
“I want to help other players, I want to step outside myself and actually take a look around me and then not get caught up in little small moments, but really see the bigger picture,” she said.
“I think that’s what’s been really great is the new coming of self, but also realizing I have so much to give this game and it’s not just me kicking this ball around. It’s the connection with teammates. It’s now being a mom. It’s now sharing my baby with others. It’s doing things that I feel fills my day other than me going out and training.”