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Crystal Dunn returns to NWSL three months after giving birth

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Crystal Dunn (19) plays the ball with Orlando Pride midfielder Thais Reiss (30) defending during the second half at Exploria Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Crystal Dunn returned to the pitch just three months and 20 days giving birth to her son Marcel, taking the field in the Portland Thorns’ Friday-night matchup against the Orlando Pride.

The star midfielder clocked in at the 86th minute, replacing U.S. Women’s National Team teammate Sophia Smith.

Dunn’s return to the Thorns comes after she joined the USWNT for training camp ahead of the team’s September friendlies against Nigeria.

“In my mind, she’s ready to play,” Andonovski said. “We don’t know exactly how many minutes, but I would not be surprised if we see her on the field soon.

“She’s as ready and as intense as she’s always been,” he continued, “and as enthusiastic as she’s always been. She’s so energetic. I just love having Crystal back in camp and looking forward to see her in one of the next camps.”

Dunn trained with the Thorns late into her pregnancy, telling the Oregonian in March, “At seven months, I didn’t think I’d still be training,” adding, “It’s just one of those things where you play it by ear.”

Marcel, Dunn’s son, joined her on the pitch following Portland’s 2-0 win Friday.

“It was such a long journey. I have never been out that long,” Dunn said after the game. “Honestly, it was about patience and trusting the journey and being grateful for giving birth to a happy, healthy journey.”

The 30-year-old said her sights are now set on an NWSL shield and a postseason run.