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Dunn Signs With Chelsea as Another Star Leaves the Washington Spirit

As Washington Spirit head coach and general manager, Jim Gabarra, prepares for the National Women’s Soccer League entry draft next week, he will have some big spots to fill on his team. It was announced today that another star member of the Washington Spirit team which made it to the NWSL Championship game will not be returning to the squad in 2017. Superstar Crystal Dunn will not return to the Spirit as she has signed with Chelsea Ladies FC.

The London-based Chelsea Ladies FC announced the signing today via the team’s Twitter account, with a photo of Dunn holding a Chelsea “Blues” jersey.

The Spirit drafted Dunn with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NWSL College Draft. The Rockville Centre, NY native had a banner 2015 season scoring 15 goals for the Spirit and was awarded NWSL Golden Boot, NWSL MVP, Washington Spirit Golden Boot, and Washington Spirit MVP. She was also NWSL Player of the Week a record six times and NWSL Player of the Month for August. Dunn was named to 2015 NWSL Best XI and averaged 0.75 goals per team game, a new NWSL record. In 2016, Dunn scored four goals, including both Spirit goals in the NWSL Championship, and had a career-high five assists.

“Crystal is hands-down one of the best young players to have come through in the United States in recent years,” wrote Emma Hayes, the manager of Chelsea Ladies FC on Twitter.

Dunn is the fourth, and perhaps biggest name to leave the Spirit since the team lost the NWSL Championship game in devastating fashion in October. In November, the team traded captain and USWNT standout Ali Krieger to Orlando, after she clashed with Gabarra. Shortly after that, the team traded starting midfielder, and fan favorite Christine Nairn to the Seattle Reign for a player and three draft picks. The Spirit also traded young defender Megan Oyster to the Boston Breakers in a three-player deal that also included the No.1 spot in the NWSL’s distribution ranking order, which is the league’s guide for placing USWNT and Canadian Women’s National Team players not already assigned to an NWSL Team.

There have been widespread reports of player discontent with club ownership. However, in an interview with the Washington Post, Dunn denied that discontent was an impetus to her exit.

“On behalf of the entire Spirit organization and our fans, I want to thank Crystal for her years of commitment and outstanding performance,” said general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Of course it hurts to lose such a talented player, but this is professional sports, and every time there’s a roster spot open it creates opportunities for others.”