NWSL: Deal paves way for Crystal Dunn's move to North Carolina

Crystal Dunn, the 2015 NWSL MVP, should be returning to the league in 2018 and play for the North Carolina Courage, where she'd be reunited with her youth coach, Courage head coach Paul Riley.

The 2017 NWSL runners-up acquired her rights in a deal for U.S. national team defender Taylor Smith and second-year striker Ashley Hatch. The Courage also acquired a international roster spot.

What the Courage gets ... Dunn left the Washington Spirit after the 2016 season to sign with Chelsea Ladies with whom she is still under contract. Dunn returns to North Carolina, where she starred at the University of North Carolina,

"Bringing Crystal back to NC has always been a goal of the franchise, and it’s incredible to see it come to fruition,” said Paul Riley, who worked with Dunn at New York’s Albertson Fury. “She is an outstanding player with bags of speed, desire and game changing ability. It's a massive year ahead for Crystal, and we hope we can be a big part of her continued development both in the NWSL and on the international stage."
 
She was the first overall pick in the 2014 College Draft by the Spirit. In 2015, she became the youngest player to ever win the NWSL Golden Boot and MVP awards after she scored 15 goals at age 23. In 2016, she became a full-time member of the U.S. national team and helped the Spirit reach the NWSL championship, scoring two goals in a penalty-kick loss to the Western New York Flash (now Courage).

She scored five goals in 17 games for Chelsea in all competitions. She started in both games as Chelsea beat Norway's Rosengard, 3-1, on aggregate to reach the quarterfinals of the 2018 UEFA Women's Champions League.

What the Spirit gets ... Smith, a key figure on the 2017 Courage backline, earned her first seven international camps with the USA in 2017.
 
“Taylor has developed into one of the best right backs in the NWSL,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “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, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 College Draft, led all rookies with seven goals, including three game-winners.
 
“Ashley had tremendous success in her rookie season and it is rare that any player achieves what she did in their first season in the NWSL,” Gabarra said. “Her natural ability to score goals is something all teams search for. Taylor and Ashley are not only top players, they are both quality people and we are elated to have them join our club.”

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