About Boardroom

Boardroom is a media network that covers the business of sports, entertainment. From the ways that athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward to new technologies, emerging leagues, and industry trends, Boardroom brings you all the news and insights you need to know...

At the forefront of industry change, Boardroom is committed to unique perspectives on and access to the news, trending topics and key players you need to know.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

Crystal Dunn Returns Home to Be a Leader for Gotham FC & Women’s Soccer

The new Gotham FC player speaks with Boardroom about the prospect of an NWSL superteam, the advice she received from Ali Krieger, and her role in advancing the sport.

One of the NWSL’s most coveted free agents is coming home. After stints in our nation’s capital, London, North Carolina, and Portland, Crystal Dunn now joins the reigning league champions NJ/NY Gotham FC.

Dunn epitomizes the phrase “hardly home, but always repping.” She hails from New Hyde Park, Long Island, and throughout our Zoom conversation, she sprinkled references only born and bred New Yorkers could genuinely understand. The USWNT star could have been welcomed with open arms at any club, so the decision to join Gotham wasn’t necessarily hard, but rather the right choice, in her mind, based on where she’s at in her career and family needs.

“It is everything that I needed at this stage in my life, which is to feel like I’m home, supported, valued, and to feel like I’m trying to help New York even elevate to a certain level,” Dunn said.

In an interview with Boardroom, Dunn was assuredly confident, adding further confirmation this was the right decision at the ideal moment. Besides joining a club with proven success on the pitch, Dunn said she was drawn to Gotham’s philosophy of pouring into their players away from competition.

“I think it really shows their commitment levels and where they want this game to grow,” Dunn, a mother of one, added.

Another significant advantage of taking her talents to the northeast? Reuniting close friends undoubtedly eases the angst of starting over with a new club.

“I get to see my people that I call pretty much every single week,” she said. “I know this team had success without me last season. However, my impact is really to help elevate Gotham and help it grow even more.”

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

An NWSL Superteam in the Making?

We’ve seen this trend across men’s sports for years: Elite athletes join forces on a single team in hopes of sustained success. That trend has carried over into women’s sports, most notably the two-time WNBA champions Las Vegas Aces boasting an envious lineup of future Hall of Fame talent.

Are Gotham FC the NWSL‘s first superteam? Dunn believes so, but it’ll take more than just the obvious talent on the roster.

“I’ve been playing this game long enough to know that you need the pieces, and you also need the chemistry,” Dunn said. “I think the NWSL is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, leagues to play in. Gotham has that firepower, but we’re not going to just beat you because of who’s on our team. We’re going to beat you with the style of play, the relentless attitude, and a winning mentality that we’re going to carry from the moment the game starts until it ends.”

Dunn’s resume certainly supports her aforementioned statements. In her three years at North Carolina, she helped the team win the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship in 2012, picking up honors like the Hermann Trophy winner, ACC Athlete of the Year, and ACC Defender of the Year. After three seasons with the Washington Spirit and one in London with Chelsea, Dunn picked up hardware a couple of times with the North Carolina Courage, winning back-to-back NWSL Shield and NWSL Championships in 2018 and 2019.

In 2020, she joined Portland Thorns FC and just kept on winning by securing victories in the NWSL Challenge Cup and another NWSL Championship. Additionally, she was the NWSL’s MVP in 2015, named to the league’s Best XI in 2015 and 2018, and her 15-goal season in 2015 resulted in picking up the NWSL Golden Boot award.

And that doesn’t even get into her international career with the USWNT, where she was a part of the illustrious 2019 winning squad, a CONCACAF Women’s Championship winner in 2018, and a 2020 Olympic bronze medalist.

Learning From the Best

As they look to repeat as champions with Dunn aboard, Gotham’s 2024 roster will unfortunately be missing a significant name.

Ali Krieger concluded an 18-year pro career as an NWSL title-winner, the final accolade missing from a crowded trophy closet. Dunn and Krieger’s friendship spans years, with the latter serving as Dunn’s bridesmaid in her 2018 wedding to Pierre Soubrier. Dunn acknowledged she consulted Krieger for advice when talking about joining Gotham in advance, and Krieger’s endorsement all but solidified her decision to rock a Sky Blue and Gotham Black kit.

“She was like, ‘Yeah, Crys, you’re going to love it,'” Dunn said of her conversation with her friend. “You got to speak to [head coach] Juan [Carlos Amorós]. He’s going to bring out the best in you. He’s going to challenge you. He’s going to do all these things that I think players, especially of where you are in your career, need to hear.’

“The day that you’re done learning and growing is the day that you’re ultimately ready to retire. I’m really grateful that she was so open and answered all my questions, from the commute to the day-to-day.”

So, what did Dunn and Amorós speak about when they finally linked up? According to the 31-year-old, not too much about on-the-field tactics but more so about her value as a player and leader.

“I think that those are qualities I never take for granted,” she added. “I truly enjoy helping other players around me. We play a team sport, so any career success I’ve ever had is definitely owed to the players who have supported me and challenged me every single day to be the best that I can be. So that’s my way of showing my appreciation to my teammates, is by always pushing them to be at their best.”

Advancing Soccer for Women of Color

What adds to Dunn’s charm is her candor, which intensifies when speaking on diversity within the sport. Growing up, her parents knew nothing about soccer.

“They were like, ‘Yeah, go kick that ball around. We don’t know what that is, but go have fun,'” Dunn recalled.

Despite being gifted with elite skills from a young age, Dunn acknowledges she never thought that she would achieve such monumental success. The game she fell in love with as a child eventually covered her college tuition and, today, helps support her family.

Fighting back tears, Dunn reflected on her long-term advocacy for inclusion in women’s soccer and how she didn’t shy away from stepping deeper into this role. As a Black woman, she’s painfully aware of how, most times, she’s the only woman of color on the pitch.

Instead of running away from that reality, she put herself in a position to end that likelihood for future pro athletes.

“When I first started my career, I was like, ‘Oh my Lord, where are we at? I know we play, but where are we at?’ Since then, everything about my game has been about bringing Black women into this sport,” Dunn said. “We’re always stereotyped. ‘Oh, you’re just fast. You’re just strong.’ Hearing that when I was young was so hard. And I think that’s why I play in the midfield. I play up top — I play outside back — because I show people that you can’t put us in a box. We are so great. We’re so highly intelligent. And I think people don’t hear that enough, but we are actually intelligent players.

“And so everything I carry with me today is showing the world that Black women belong in the sport. We’re not just strong. We’re extremely smart, and we’re cognitively able to break the game down as well as anyone else. It is the most important thing, is leaving this game in a better way for women of color.”

As she prepares for this new adventure, Dunn assures me she’s in the best form of her life, completely ready to pull double duty as a Gotham FC starter and (hopefully) another chance to medal at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. As we wrapped our conversation, Dunn had an optimistic message for fans who can hardly wait to see Gotham run it back.

“I want to truly fight so hard to bring another championship to this club,” Dunn said. “I want to win the Shield, I want to win the Challenge Cup. I want to win another championship for years to come, and I really want to help progress this game even more than it has ever been before.”

Read More:

About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.