She is only 5-1, but Crystal Dunn made a big statement Thursday night with two assists and a goal in the U.S. women’s national team’s 5-0 exhibition win over Haiti at Detroit’s Ford Field. The teams play again Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama (3 p.m., ESPN2) as part of Team USA’s World Cup victory tour.
Dunn was the only player in the U.S. starting lineup Thursday who was not a member of the World Cup team. She said before the game she felt a bit awkward starting on the team’s victory tour because she was the final player cut from the U.S. camp before the World Cup. Coach Jill Ellis had to trim to roster to 23, and Dunn was unlucky No. 24.
Dunn, the 23-year-old former University of North Carolina star, was crushed to be left behind. She spent the summer working on her game and proving her worth, scoring a league-high 15 goals in 20 games for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League. She became the youngest player to win the Golden Boot award.
Ellis rewarded Dunn’s hard work with a call-up to the victory tour.
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“I think what you saw [Thursday], the energy, the confidence — she wasn’t always looking to turn and take on and do those types of things with us [in the past],” Ellis told reporters in Detroit after Thursday’s match. “Sometimes when you’re a younger player coming in with more senior players, sometimes the tendency is to defer a little bit and pass a little bit. I think her personality in the NWSL games grew, and she grew more confident that she was the go-to player.”
U.S. World Cup star Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat trick against Haiti, also praised Dunn.
“I think Crystal did really well,” Lloyd said. “When I look back on my career, I’ve only learned during difficult times. As hard as that was for Crystal to not make the World Cup team, we have seen a better Crystal. She has gotten better. She has gotten confident.”
Dunn is from Rockville Centre, New York, and stood out on every team for which she has ever played. She played on the U.S. under-17, under-18 and under-20 teams. As a Tar Heel, she played everything from the back line to forward and earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman and All-ACC Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.
If she continues to play well, she will likely be on the U.S. roster for the 2016 Olympics in Rio — assuming they qualify (a very likely assumption).
“Crystal has been involved with us for a long time,” Ellis said before Thursday’s match. “I’m very familiar with her and very familiar with what she can contribute. I think the plan moving forward in these games is to certainly look at other players outside the 23 that we have. Crystal has come off a terrific club season and we’re excited to have her back, and in terms of what she can contribute she’s obviously a very dynamic player. She works hard, great personality, plays with a lot of passion.”
▪ Haitian teen living dream: One of the breakout players on the Haitian women’s team is 16-year-old Detroit resident Darline Radamaker, a Haitian orphan who was adopted by a Michigan family when she was 6. Rick and Lynn Radamaker visited Les Cayes, Haiti, with their church to help build an orphanage, and wound up adopting Radamaker and her sister, Phoebe.
Radamaker plays for Utica Ford High and for the Michigan Gators Orange U17 club team. On Thursday, she got to play against her idols Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo.
“I was trying to keep my chill,” Radamaker told reporters after. “I was trying not to look at them and then I was looking at them. Trying not to stare and trying to stay focused on the game. It was definitely a challenge.”
Haiti coach Shek Borkowski added: “For a 16-year-old girl to play against girls that she idolized on television watching in World Cup games, clearly for her, it’s a lifetime of memories right there.”
English Premier League: Manchester City (15), Leicester City (11), Manchester United and Arsenal (10), West Ham and Crystal Palace (9).
MLS: East — New England (46), N.Y. and D.C. (45), Columbus (44), Toronto (37). West — Vancouver (48), Dallas and L.A. (47), Seattle (42), K.C. and Portland (41).
NASL: Ottawa and Minnesota (25), N.Y. Cosmos (22), Fort Lauderdale (20), Edmonton (19).
On the tube
Sunday: Southampton vs. Manchester United (11 a.m., NBCSN), U.S. women vs. Haiti (3 p.m., ESPN2), Barcelona vs. Levante (2:25 p.m., BeInSport USA), Portland vs. N.Y. Red Bulls (5 p.m., ESPN)