Dunn ready for World Cup after getting cut in 2015

The former Tar Heels All-American and Carolina Courage midfielder gets her chance this year

The United States' Crystal Dunn handles the ball during the first half of a match against New Zealand in May. (Jeff Roberson / AP Photo)

LONDON — Crystal Dunn was among the last cuts from the U.S. national team roster for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

That just made her all the more determined to get to France.

Dunn is expected to start for the defending champions, one of 24 teams competing in this year’s tournament.

“I’m just so excited to get into this World Cup so that I can no longer be known as that girl that didn’t make a World Cup,” the Carolina Courage midfielder and former University of North Carolina star said, with a laugh.

The 26-year-old native New Yorker said the experience of getting cut has made her into the player she is today.

“I supported them (the 2015 team) along their journey, but I was able to reflect on myself and really just invest in who I wanted to be as a player. And I think just brushing myself off just helped me get to where I am now.”

Crystal Dunn, who was among the final cuts from the U.S. team for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, is expected to be a key part of this year’s tournament. (Seth Wenig / AP Photo)

While the 2015 team was traversing Canada en route to its third World Cup title, Dunn was back home in the National Women’s Soccer League and lighting it up. She had 15 goals for the Washington Spirit and was awarded the league’s Golden Boot.

She also played a season overseas in Chelsea before returning home and landing with the NWSL’s Courage. Dunn and the Courage won last season’s NWSL title after a record-breaking season.

In the intervening four years, she also became a regular on the national team, earning a spot on the 2016 Olympic roster. She’s scored 24 goals in 84 appearances.

Dunn’s versatility is valued by coach Jill Ellis, a former NC State assistant coach who has at times moved Dunn up to a more attacking role late in games when subs are made. The starting backline for the U.S. team during the World Cup will likely include Dunn, Courage teammate Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara.

“She’s the most versatile player I’ve ever coached,” Ellis said. “It’s not just her ability to play in different lines, it’s the quality with which she plays in different lines, which is quite extraordinary.”

Dunn joked that there’s one position she’ll stay away from: “Keeper. That’s the only one that I refuse.”

“Yes, it is challenging at times,” she said about her shifting role. “I think I’ve been fortunate to actually be on this team where people help me. It’s not so much about, ‘You have to do this, this and this right in order to be the world’s best outside back.’ I think I’m always learning, I’m always trying to be at my best.”

The U.S. team is in Group F at the World Cup, which the Americans opened with a 13-0 thrashing of Thailand in Reims. They’ll face Chile in Paris on June 16. The final match of the group stage is June 20 in Le Havre against nemesis Sweden, which knocked the Americans out of the Rio Games.

This World Cup is all the more special for Dunn because her husband, Pierre Soubrier, was born in France and has family there.

A former player at Quinnipiac University, Soubrier is the head athletic trainer for the Portland Thorns — the team the Courage beat to win the title last season. Dunn and Soubrier married late last year.

“I always tell Pierre’s family that, obviously, the French side, it would be great for women’s soccer if they were to do well as the hosting country,” she said. “But of course not too well because we’re trying to win this thing.”