Coontributed by Michael Saunders.
Despite the introduction of the new 2020 USWNT kit displaying 4 stars above the crest and the FIFA Badge indicating our being World Cup Champions, it became fairly clear to yours truly before the opening SBC match against England, that it would not be your average friendly, Listening to Vlatko Andonovski's pre-match press conference, responding to the English Press' relentless questions on what they framed as a grudge match quickly dispelled that idea. With that scenario in hand, I wondered how our team would perform against a Top 10 opponent with this type of pressure playing for a new coach, Knowing that the players are being evaluated for a role in the Olympics.
Post press conference gave the media the chance to meet the players. It provided this former Long Islander and 25 year resident of Rockville Centre the opportunity to discuss the coach's new approach with the town's South Side HS graduate & starting left wingback for the NT, Crystal Dunn. After congratulating her upcoming 100th cap, I asked her directly does she see a difference in her role with Vlatko as head coach. Her respsone was unequivocal, accentuating her instinct to go forward in an attacking role; but that she has learned the importance of her defensive duties, Nevertheless, she explained that Vlatko is mentoring the team to identify and create moments to optimize the offensive side of the ball by finding space while minimizing the defensive risk; a fact she declared is exciting as it expands her role accordingly.
No question, Dunn is a natually attacking player. This is quite apparent watching her play with the NC Courage. It was the tranformation from an attacking midfielder to a left-back during the WC where we saw her significantly improve her defensive inteligence and skillset. Of course, her pace ia a real asset when it comes to recovery runs and covering depth but combined with her high footballing IQ, Dunn is able to negate several situations before they occur., Many team at the World Cup pinpointed Dunn as the weak link of the USWNT yet game after game she excelled and was only given recognition after defeating France in the quaterfinal., The pundits could not say enough about how she shackled both DIani & later Cascarino when whe was brought on. Now we will see whether her new "license": to go forward will increase the US' attacking possiblities.
Authored by Michael Saunders.