Crystal Dunn could be returning to the U.S. women’s national team lineup sooner rather than later if coach Vlatko Andonovski has anything to say about it.
Speaking Monday ahead of Tuesday’s matchup against Nigeria, Andonovski said Dunn has been “training very well.” The 30-year-old has been practicing with the national team during the international window after giving birth to son Marcel in May, but she is not yet back on the active roster.
“When I say very well, 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.”
While he noted that the Portland Thorns will decide whether or not she sees minutes in the NWSL before the end of the season, he added that she “looks great.”
“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.”
The comments come after Andonovski said in August that Dunn was “ahead of schedule” in her return.
Dunn was training throughout her pregnancy. Back in March, she told the LA Times that she didn’t think twice about continuing to train while pregnant.
Entering her 2nd season with the Portland @ThornsFC, @Cdunn19 continues to soar beyond expectations. Her latest feat: continuing to train w/ the team into the third trimester of her pregnancy. #BAONPDX #HereisOregon 🎥 by @vickieaconnorRead more here: https://t.co/o8468EQZWp pic.twitter.com/cToWnWnWTZ— The Oregonian (@Oregonian) March 5, 2022
Entering her 2nd season with the Portland @ThornsFC, @Cdunn19 continues to soar beyond expectations. Her latest feat: continuing to train w/ the team into the third trimester of her pregnancy. #BAONPDX #HereisOregon 🎥 by @vickieaconnorRead more here: https://t.co/o8468EQZWp pic.twitter.com/cToWnWnWTZ
“It never crossed my mind to be like, ‘I’m pregnant. Now I have to stop,’” she told the LA Times. “I spoke to my doctors and they were all like, ‘Yeah, you’ve been an elite athlete before you were pregnant. There’s no reason why you can’t continue training.’ Passing the soccer ball, that is the least of their worries during my pregnancy.”
Still, even with her continued training, Dunn’s quick return would be astounding. Fellow USWNT star Alex Morgan – who also trained while pregnant – took six months to return to the field with English club Tottenham. It took her a full two months to feel comfortable jogging and kicking a ball around.
“Your body is literally changing for nine months, and you can’t just expect it to go back to normal,” Morgan said. “On top of that you’re dealing with a completely new life and raising a newborn.”
Still, return times vary. Napheesa Collier made her return to the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx a mere 10 weeks after giving birth to her daughter. Back in 2009, Candace Parker made her return 53 days after giving birth.
Morgan has commented on Dunn’s readiness, with the fellow mom saying that she appears to be close to a return.
“It’s so fun to have another mom in camp,” Morgan said. “I think it’s the first time since I’ve been a mom, so that is pretty amazing. And to know that she’s come back to the national team, training with us at such a high level just three months after giving birth, it’s amazing to see her level already and I’m just cheering her on.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing her get in her first games with Portland but I’m extremely impressed so far and I’m just so happy that she’s back with us.”
Morgan gave birth to daughter Charlie in 2020 and was the lone mom on the team for a while, but she has been joined by Dunn, Casey Krueger and Julie Ertz.
“I love to see the mom club grow,” Morgan said. “It’s always nice to share things in common and not be the only mom. It’s already stressful enough being a mom but then going on the road with your child and trying to compete and use your body every single day, physically, it can get really stressful as a mom, so it’s really nice to share.”
As the mom club grows, so do questions about what the team’s lineup will look like ahead of next year’s World Cup. The talent of players like Dunn is unquestionable – but the presence of up-and-coming players has created a dilemma.
At the same time, Andonovski has expressed the need for the lineup to get significant time together in preparation for the tournament.
“We are not coaching with an eye toward the next game, we’re actually coaching with an eye toward the World Cup,” Andonovski said. “Everything we do now is a preparation for the World Cup.”