Crystal Dunn is headed back to the NWSL — as part of a major trade between the Washington Spirit and the North Carolina Courage. 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year forward Ashley Hatch and defender Taylor Smith are headed to the Spirit in exchange for the rights to the 2015 NWSL MVP in Dunn, who spent last season playing for Chelsea L.F.C. in England. North Carolina will also receive an international roster spot in the deal.
“I’m really excited to be back in an area that means so much to me,” Dunn, who played college soccer for the University of North Carolina, said in a Courage news release. “I know I am joining a great team and a club with an incredible history. I am just excited to get started and meet my new teammates.”
“Bringing Crystal back to [North Carolina] has always been a goal of the franchise, and it’s incredible to see it come to fruition,” Courage coach Paul Riley said in the statement.
Dunn won the 2015 NWSL MVP award after scoring 15 goals for the Spirit. In 2016, she notched two goals and five assists in the regular season. She scored two goals in the 2016 NWSL Championship, when Washington fell in penalty kicks to the Western New York Flash. She has 22 goals in 57 games for the U.S. women’s national team. Dunn scored three goals in 11 appearances with Chelsea.
“We are thrilled to welcome Crystal Dunn to the North Carolina Courage,” Courage President and GM Curt Johnson. said “It’s a fantastic homecoming for her. Her career at UNC and with our U.S. national team speaks for itself. She is one of the greats in the history of the UNC program and returns to NWSL in the prime of her career. At the same time, it’s a heartfelt thank you and good luck to Taylor and Ashley. They are both great pros, teammates and people. They will be missed.”
The Courage now have the 2015 and 2016 NWSL Most Valuable Players on their roster. Lynn Williams won the award with the Western New York Flash in 2016.
Smith appeared in every game for the Courage last season, registering two assists from the outside back position.
“Taylor has developed into one of the best right backs in the NWSL,” Spirit GM and coach Jim Gabarra said in a Spirit news release. “She has performed very well both with the national team and the Courage, and has been part of winning teams her entire career. She will be a difference maker for us.”
Hatch won the 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year award after tying a rookie record with seven goals in her first professional season.
“Crystal’s contributions to the Spirit have been massive,” Gabarra said. “She is the definition of an impact player in the NWSL. We thank Crystal for all she has done for our club and wish her good luck in North Carolina.”