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USWNT coach: Crystal Dunn would face ‘stiff competition’ in midfield

Crystal Dunn returned to the field for the USWNT in October after giving birth in May. (Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Crystal Dunn could compete for any position she chooses on the USWNT, according to Vlatko Andonovski.

On Friday, an interview with GQ was published in which Dunn discussed the emotional toll it takes on her to step into the USWNT and play as a defender.

“I think it’s hard because I’m the only one who has to do it,” she said. “I step into camp, and I feel like I lose a part of myself. I no longer get to be Crystal who scores goals, assists, is this attacking player.

“I step into an environment where I have to be world-class in a position that I don’t think is my best position. But I’ve owned it. I’ve made it my own, and I’ve tried to create it in my most authentic way. But I don’t love it.”

But Andonovski doesn’t view Dunn that way, calling her “world class” at left back on Saturday during media availability.

“As a left back she is world-class and probably one of the best left backs in the world. As a midfielder she has a pretty stiff competition in that position. So everybody has a choice. And then we make the decisions,” he said, adding that Dunn has the freedom to also go out and play on the wing.

“Any player can compete at any position and I would be open to anything,” he said. “But if I was a player on the national team right now, Mallory Swanson is probably the last player that I would want to compete against.

“So, we don’t exclude anything at this moment. And we see Crystal even throughout the games, she has the liberty to go forward as a left-wing. We have seen her in the middle getting the ball and doing her thing, which she’s also special at in the midfield. But if we feel like at any point in time she’s going to be better suited in those positions and give us the best chance to be successful, then we can see her there.”

Andonovski added that he had not yet read the article, and wasn’t fully familiar with what exactly Dunn said. Still, the conversation has come up about her switching positions, he said. But Dunn is still making her way back from maternity leave, and he says that putting her in at defender is the best way to get her back out on the field.

“I actually think her playing in the position that she’s playing for us right now is the easiest thing that we can do or easiest for her to get back out,” he said. “Because once she comes in this environment it’s almost like a switch now, without even us trying to say anything, or before she even comes in, she’s already preparing: ‘Okay, this is where I feel most comfortable. This is where I want to be. And this is what I’m good at.’”

But, as she continues to make her way back to a full 90 minutes, Andonovski says Dunn is always allowed to compete for a spot in the midfield.

“Dunny, obviously she’s a world-class player. But she has a choice too,” he said. “Like she can compete as a midfielder, she has to compete with Rose Lavelle, and Lindsey Horan and Catarina Macario when she comes in as well, right. So if she doesn’t feel comfortable playing left back or she doesn’t want to be left back, nobody is forced to play in any position.”

Still, it isn’t the first time Andonovski has heard about Dunn’s dissatisfaction at defender, and lately she hasn’t expressed further frustrations.

“Nobody’s forced to play on the national team. Nobody’s forced to play in any position,” he said. “Every time I’ve talked to Crystal, she just shares how much she enjoys being on the team, and loves helping the team being successful.

“Obviously as a coach, I’m happy to hear that and I’m happy to help her in the position, or the tasks that she has to do.”

Speaking to The Athletic, Dunn said that she knows what her role is on the USWNT.

“I step into this environment, I know exactly what my role is. I know my strengths. And it’s not at all to say like, ‘Hey, I am not happy.’ But I think it’s more so to say like, ‘This is how I feel internally at times,’ and it’s okay to express that,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m, you know, trying to cause havoc or a stir or anything like that. I think at the end of the day, it’s really just being authentic.”