Crystal Dunn is on an 18-month contract with Chelsea Ladies and will join the English club at the conclusion of camp with the United States, she confirmed to a small group of reporters last week.
“That’s how long I plan to be there. It seems like a long time,” the 2015 NWSL Most Valable Player said.
Dunn reiterated that she has no plans to play in NWSL this season even though Chelsea does not have another FAWSL season until the fall due to the league transitioning back to a traditional scheduling window.
“I think playing in two different leagues in the same calendar year can be a bit much,” she said. “I knew in my heart that 2017 was the year for me to experience being in a different country and playing in a new league. I wanted to jump in at the start of the year. I just didn’t see myself playing with Spirit and being like ‘Okay, it’s time to leave now.’ This is a year that I’m just putting my all into a new experience. I need to invest fully, be in that environment and give it a whirl.”
The former No. 1 overall pick in NWSL spent two days at Chelsea as part of a broader trip to Europe and “fell in love pretty much.”
“What they have to offer is incredible. A true professional environment, so close knit with the men’s team. Seeing the Chelsea men’s team right there next to you makes you feel like they have a lot of respect for the women’s side. They feel like we need to be on the same playing field as the men.”
Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes was also a selling point. The first coach of the Chicago Red Stars when that club was formed ahead of WPS, Hayes is now considered among the handful of very best coaches in the women’s game today.
“I think Emma just comes off as a human being,” Dunn said. “It’s really great to have that connection with your coach. At the end of the day, they’re a human, I’m a human, it’s great to be treated as such. Being to feel comfortable having any conversation with her (about) any concerns that I have is really important. That’s what she gives players. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her.”
Despite saying she wanted to be fully invested in her new environs, Dunn did make sure she had stipulations in her contract that allow her to join the U.S. anytime they gather. That’s why she was at training last week and through the end of January camp, and that’s why she plans to return again for SheBelieves.
As for a return to the Spirit, Dunn was very non-committal about the future but did confirm a pleasant chat with the club’s head coach Jim Gabarra before departing.
“I can’t predict the future,” she said. “Eighteen months from now I have no idea what’s going to happen. I did have a conversation with (Gabarra) and said I’m not saying I want my rights traded. D.C. is my home. I just bought a house there. Me having to pick up and move is not necessarily what I want…but I obviously didn’t really stay too connected to my home picking up and moving to England.”