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A Change for Crystal Dunn: Leaving Portland to Find a New Journey

December 11, 2023 by Kayleigh Tony | Courtesy of

One of the most exciting things about this NWSL offseason is that there is now free agency for players. For players to have unrestricted free agency, they must have played at least five years in the league. Previously, players didn’t have much of a say in their moves throughout the season/offseason, but now that is different. The change allowed many high-profile players to be granted free agency so that they have a say in where they go next. One of those players is Crystal Dunn. After spending three seasons with the Portland Thorns, Dunn will play for a new team next season. We take a look at how she got here and what teams make the most sense for Dunn to sign with. 


Crystal Dunn’s Journey So Far

Dunn played collegiately at the University of North Carolina, where she helped lead the Tar Heels to the NCAA Championship in 2012. After an impressive career for UNC, the Washington Spirit selected her as the first overall pick in the 2014 NWSL Draft. 

She spent three seasons with the Washington Spirit, but her best season was in 2015. She was the offensive leader for Washington, scoring 15 goals in 20 appearances. During that season, she received league MVP and Golden Boot winner. 

2016 was a big season for Dunn as she helped lead the Spirit to the NWSL Championship, but they fell short, losing in penalty kicks. She scored twice in that final, though. 

After the 2016 season, Dunn moved overseas, signing with Chelsea in the FA WSL, where she would spend two seasons. 

In 2018, she returned to the NWSL, but this time with the North Carolina Courage, thanks to a trade between the Spirit and Courage. She found a lot of success during her time in North Carolina. She appeared in 35 games in two seasons, scoring 15 goals and helping the Courage win two straight NWSL Shields and NWSL Championships. 

Dunn made a move to the Portland Thorns via trade in 2021. During her time with the Thorns, she made 38 appearances through three seasons. The 2022 season was a special one for Dunn as she missed most of the season pregnant with her son, but she was able to return to the field at the end of the season to help the Thorns win the NWSL Championship. 

Dunn is one of the best players in the league. She’s a talent that any team would be lucky to have. During her career, she scored 38 goals and played over 9,500 minutes. She won MVP, was named to the Best XI twice, is a Challenge Cup champion, and won three NWSL Championships and three Shields. 


Where To Now?

The move is likely due to Dunn wanting a change, and her husband, who was previously working for the Thorns, has moved to Florida, so a move closer to him could also be a factor. 

Sandra Herrera reported for CBS Sports that the three teams interested in signing Dunn are NJ/NY Gotham, Washington Spirit, and the Orlando Pride. These teams make sense, as Dunn is likely looking to return to the East Coast. 

Gotham is probably the front-runner as the team just won the NWSL Championship and is looking to continue its winning ways. Dunn is also from Long Island so it would be a bit of a homecoming for her. Additionally, Gotham has a bit of a defensive void, with Ali Krieger retiring and Kelley O’Hara struggling with injury; it could be an excellent fit for both the team and Dunn. 

She could also find herself back where her career started in Washington, with a ton of talented young players around her as they look to win another championship. The con of Washington is that they still don’t have a head coach, which could be a tough sell to Dunn as she doesn’t know who will lead the team next season. 

Orlando was a logical choice as they had a lot of money to offer, and her husband had just gotten a job with the USL W team in Tallahassee. Orlando also showed glimpses of brilliance last season and just fell short of the playoffs, so a player of Dunn’s caliber could elevate the team and help get them to the playoffs. 

Steph Yang reported that the Orlando Pride confirmed that Dunn and the team are no longer in talks, so all signs point to either the Washington Spirit or Gotham.

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