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The 11 Most Memorable NWSL Trades, No. 2: Crystal Dunn becomes final piece of Courage’s mastery in midfield

(Photos Copyright Lewis Gettier for The Equalizer)

The National Women’s Soccer League has completed its 11th year of operation, which makes it a good time to look back at 11 memorable trades that have helped shape the league.

The NWSL is no stranger to blockbuster deals, some of which have lived up to their billing while some have fallen flat (remember Sydney Leroux to the Flash for a first-round pick and the rights to Abby Wambach?). Still others have helped set precedents that live today.

Between now and the end of the year, The Equalizer will bring you one memorable NWSL trade per day.

You can find the entire series here.

No. 2 – North Carolina Courage acquire rights to Crystal Dunn and an international roster spot from Washington Spirit in exchange for Ashley Hatch and Taylor Smith (Jan. 16, 2018)

Through these first 11 years of the NWSL, there is little debate that the best, most consistent soccer we have seen was when the North Carolina Courage dominated in 2018 and 2019. The Courage were already a solid club, having won the 2016 NWSL Championship as the Western New York Flash and the Shield in 2017 after moving south. But when they traded for Crystal Dunn, everything changed.

Toward the end of 2017, head coach Paul Riley began to put the Courage into a box midfield, with two defensive midfielders and two attacking midfielders. At its best, Dunn and Debinha tormented defenses with support from behind from Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni. Critics derided the style as being less than beautiful, but it worked. And inserting Dunn was the magic potion that turned the midfield, and the team, from good to great.

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