BOYDS, Md. — The idea of following in Mia Hamm's footsteps is daunting enough. Doing so when handpicked by the American soccer legend herself? Now that's real pressure.
When Hamm approached Crystal Dunn about inheriting her No. 19 at the University of North Carolina a few years back, the Tar Heels star balked.
"I remember being like, 'Mia, I'm not wearing this jersey because I don't want to play crappy in it and then I'm shaming your name,'" Dunn said on the Goal USA podcast. "She was like, 'No, dude I've had plenty of terrible games in this jersey. I really want you to wear it.'"
So Dunn obliged — and she still wears No. 19 today. But now she is carving a decorated reputation of her own. After being one of the final two players cut from the U.S. squad that went on to win the Women's World Cup last summer, she responded by leading the NWSL with 15 goals and claiming MVP honors.
The 23-year-old has since played her way into contention for a starting spot with the U.S. national team ahead of the Summer Olympics, scoring 11 times in 16 matches — including a record-tying five goals in a 10-0 win over Puerto Rico last month.
Dunn's national team breakout kicked off in September, when U.S. coach Jill Ellis made her the first player from outside the World Cup squad to take part in the Victory Tour. Getting the start in a 5-0 win over Haiti in Detroit, Dunn buried the disappointment of missing out on Canada by notching two assists and her first international goal.
"That was probably the first game I feel like with the national team that I was so calm, so composed and I just had fun," Dunn said. "It's a very intense environment at all times, and it's very easy to forget that this game is fun and it's really hard to enjoy yourself at all moments. I feel like for that game, I was just coasting.
"Jill was like, 'Hey, I've been watching you in the league and I just want you to go out there and continue doing what you're doing.' Those were the only words that I paid attention to."
Check out the full episode of the Goal USA podcast below as Dunn discusses developing as a player on Long Island, pursuing an NWSL crown with the Washington Spirit, and unwinding with everything from Rihanna to "Game of Thrones."
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