The Washington Spirit offered no surprises at the start of the National Women’s Soccer League draft Friday, selecting University of North Carolina star Crystal Dunn with the first pick.
“Without a doubt, there was going to be nothing that would tempt us to do anything but pick her,” Coach Mark Parsons said. “Not that there were many conversations — everyone else knew what we were going to do.”
One day after D.C. United swapped the top choice and chose second in an wildly unpredictable MLS draft, the Spirit secured the clear-cut top candidate. Dunn, 21, has made eight U.S. national team appearances and is on track to vie for playing time ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“Crystal has everything. We picked up a player that is going to be a world-beater,” Parsons said. “She is going to take this league by storm at some point and become one of the most exciting players in the world.”
She won college soccer’s most prestigious individual honor, the Hermann Trophy, in 2012 and finished second to Virginia junior playmaker Morgan Brian this past season. Dunn was a midfielder at UNC in 2013, posting 14 goals and six assists, and a right back for the national team.
Where would she like to play on the pro level?
“I am definitely a flank player, so I would like to play somewhere on the outside, whether that is outside mid or outside back, maybe even throw me up top to see how I can run around a little bit,” the Long Island native said. “Definitely the flank — don’t put me in the middle!”
That won’t be an issue with a pair of experienced central midfielders on the roster: Canada’s Diana Matheson and the U.S.’s Yael Averbuch.
“What’s exciting is that she can play anywhere. We will play her where she will win us games and be exciting,” Parsons said. “You almost have to adapt to her and her special qualities.”
Dunn is the second U.S. national team member acquired by the Spirit this winter following Averbuch’s arrival through allocation this month. They will join two returning U.S. teammates, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger.
Washington also selected a pair of Virginia prospects: defender-forward Molly Menchel (Edison High School) in the third round and defender-midfielder Shasta Fisher in the fourth.
Other players from the Washington region selected: Virginia Tech forward Jazmine Reeves (by Boston in the third round), Maryland forward Hayley Brock (Chicago, third round), Georgetown defender Emily Menges (Portland, third round) and Virginia midfielder Annie Steinlage (Western New York, third round).
The Spirit, based at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, finished last in the NWSL’s inaugural season with a 3-14-5 record.
Training camp will open March 10. The 2014 schedule has not been finalized but pegged to begin in mid-April.
1. Washington Spirit: North Carolina D-MF Crystal Dunn
2. Houston Dash: North Carolina MF Kealia Ohai
3. Chicago Red Stars (from Seattle): Santa Clara MF Julie Johnston
4. Chicago Red Stars: Illinois MF Vanessa DiBernardo
5. FC Kansas City (from Boston): Florida State D Kassey Kallman
6. Sky Blue FC: Penn State F Maya Hayes
7. Seattle Reign (from Portland): Portland D Amanda Frisbie
8. Boston Breakers (from Kansas City): Michigan F Nkem Ezurike
9. Western New York Flash: Stanford F Courtney Verloo
For the second through fourth rounds, go to nwslsoccer.com