A good left back is hard to find.
Any soccer team worth its salt is a collective. But at a glance, some players seem more crucial than others. There’s the creative midfielder, clothed in the number 10, which reflects a distinguished lineage from Pele to Marta; the keeper, the last protector against the opponent’s onslaught; and the star striker, a graffiti artist trying to sully the referee’s scorecard each match.
Then there’s everyone else—and finally, perhaps at the very bottom rung of the ladder, is the left back.
For the U.S. Women’s National Team last summer, this thankless job belonged to Crystal Dunn.
It was a far cry from her duties in the spring and fall for NC Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League, where she notched nine goals and four assists as the pacesetter of the local team’s attack. But across all seasons, she was a champion of adaptation—and a champion, full-stop, bringing home a World Cup trophy for the USWNT with her indefatigable defense and helping claim an NWSL Championship for the Courage with goals in both playoff matches.
Moreover, Dunn amplified her and her USWNT teammates’ advocacy, delivering a message that highlighted not only their victories but also their continuing off-field battle with U.S. Soccer for equal pay. USWNT members earn less for making the team and receive smaller performance bonuses than members of the men’s national team.
“It’s important that people realize that, yes, we play soccer for a living, but we’re so much more,” Dunn said in July. “It’s important that we make our statement very loud and clear and allow everybody to feel that they are unified with us and our team.”
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