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U.S national team midfielder/defender is among the top players in the NWSL; she joins her husband in Portland

Crystal DunnThe Portland Thorns made a splash on Thursday, Oct. 22, adding one of the best players in the National Women's Soccer League.

In a move that has been rumored off and on for at least a year, Portland acquired U.S. Women's National Team player Crystal Dunn in a three-team deal. To acquire the 28-year-old Dunn, the Thorns are sending several assets — but no players — north to rival OL Reign.

Dunn has been a winner everywhere, from college at North Carolina to last summer's Women's World Cup in France, and — as Thorns fans know — with the North Carolina Courage. She was the NWSL MVP in 2015 with the Washington Spirit.

In Dunn, the Thorns add a player who can be effective in multiple positions. Dunn has played midfield, forward and outside back in the NWSL and was the starting left back for the U.S. Women's National Team during the 2019 World Cup run.

"Crystal is a game-changer, and with her intelligence, dribbling, passing and finishing ability, she can unlock a game in a split second, while her defensive qualities and work rate make her as impactful off the ball as she is on it," Thorns coach Mark Parsons said in the press release announcing the deal. "She has a winning mentality, a contagious personality full of positivity and the desire to be the best and make people around her the best."

The trade makes sense on several levels for the Thorns and for Dunn, who is married to Thorns head trainer Pierre Soubrier. Dunn gives Portland a versatile, world-class player who can play up top, in midfield or at outside back. A New Jersey native, Dunn gets to play in her current hometown.

To add Dunn, Portland sent its first-round pick in the 2022 NWSL College Draft, one international roster spot for only the 2021 season and up to $250,000 of allocation money to OL Reign. The first $150,000 was sent north when the trade was finalized. On Jan. 1, 2021, Portland will pay OL Reign another $50,000. An additional $50,000 will head north on Jan. 1, 2022, if Dunn is in the NWSL as of next June 1 or later.

OL Reign became the intermediary in the deal, sending goalkeeper Casey Murray and $140,000 in allocation money to North Carolina for Dunn and then shipping Dunn to Portland. Reign FC comes away with a future draft pick, $110,000 and an international roster slot for next season.

The Thorns parted with a significant amount of money by NWSL standards. But Dunn, who wanted to come to Portland, could be a bargain. How Parsons deploys Dunn will be interesting to watch. Is it possible there is too much talent in midfield for Dunn to fit comfortably alongside Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair and Rocky Rodriguez?

Dunn has 31 NWSL goals in 85 games. Nineteen of them came in 58 games with Washington, including 15 in her Golden Boot and MVP season with the Spirit in 2015.

But evaluating this trade will take some time. The most immediate question is how Portland manages the Nov. 12 expansion draft for Racing Louisville FC. The rules for the draft have not been released — the protected lists will be made public on Nov. 5 — so we don't know how many players each team can protect.

Adding Dunn gives Portland five allocated U.S. Women's National Team players, including the rights to Tobin Heath, who is currently with Manchester United in England. If, as expected, teams can only protect two of them, what will Portland's strategy be?

Of course, there's a chance Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson works out a deal with Racing FC that protects Portland's most prized players. Not yet knowing the total number of players teams can protect makes it a guessing game how the Thorns will handle their list.

But it's a safe bet Dunn will be in Portland. Ditto Becky Sauerbrunn, who in similar fashion asked for a trade to Portland earlier this season.


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