What to expect from Crystal Dunn’s first season in Portland

Crystal Dunn with her former team, the North Carolina Courage (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

The three-way trade between the North Carolina Courage, OL Reign, and Portland Thorns brokered in October shook up the NWSL–Crystal Dunn was on the move. In late February, four months after coming over from North Carolina, Dunn committed to Portland by inking a three-year deal.

With the USWNT’s European friendlies wrapped up, and as the NWSL Challenge Cup continues, what can we expect from Dunn as she wears the Thorns crest for the first time?

Let’s take a look at Dunn’s stats over her seven-year professional career. Since 2013, the 28-year-old has appeared in 109 matches for the United States women’s national team, logging an impressive 24 goals and 18 assists, winning the 2019 World Cup, and cementing her status as a consistent and reliable contributor on the back line.

In the NWSL, Dunn has lived up to the expectations that come with being a first overall pick. Thorns coach Mark Parsons was coach of the Washington Spirit when they selected Dunn with the top pick in 2014. Dunn has said she’s looked forward to “coming full circle” by reuniting with Parsons in Portland.

In three seasons in North Carolina, Dunn led the Courage to two NWSL championships and two NWSL Shields, contributing 18 goals in 44 appearances. She has had success wherever she’s gone so far in the league, and there’s no reason to think the same won’t be true in Portland.

Parsons had high praise for Dunn after the trade became official.

“Crystal is a game-changer, and with her intelligence, dribbling, passing, and finishing ability, she can unlock a game in a split second, while her defensive qualities and work rate make her as impactful off the ball as she is on it,” he said. “She has a winning mentality, a contagious personality full of positivity, and the desire to be her best and make people around her the best.”

If using one adjective to describe Dunn, “versatile” is probably the most constructive. She thrives in a variety of positions on both offense and defense and has demonstrated equally the ability to score and to create chances for teammates. Now teaming up with Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan and Rocky Rodríguez in Portland, Dunn’s offensive repertoire will be on full display and the Thorns are in a much better position to win their first NWSL title since 2017.

On a call with reporters after the trade, Dunn said she would prefer to assume an attacking role with the Thorns, despite primarily playing defense for the USWNT.

“I did voice to him that I don’t really want to play in the back line,” Dunn said of a conversation with Parsons. “So if he has that idea lined up, I’m like ‘OK, well I’ll deal with it.’ But I think he knows that I definitely want to pursue an attacking role, and I think he can agree with me as well on that.”

Dunn is currently listed as a midfielder on the Thorns roster. Wherever Parsons decides to slot her in the lineup, we can expect to see her name on the scoresheet regularly.

If we’ve learned anything from Dunn’s career, it’s that where she goes, the hardware seems to follow. Portland is certainly banking on it.