Photo of Crystal Dunn standing in gray surrounded by fans at her Sendoff Ceremony in Rockville Centre
By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
August 4, 2016- 262 men and 293 women will be representing Team USA at the Rio Olympics. It’s the largest team of women that the United States has ever sent to the Olympics and three of them––Crystal Dunn, Allie Long and Sue Bird––grew up playing in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA).
Crystal Dunn has lived a short corner kick from the Eastern New York office in Rockville Centre since she was a little girl. She spent her formative years in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL), playing for the Rockville Centre Power, Rockville Centre Tornadoes and Albertson Fury ‘91. Crystal also developed her wonderful talent with Eastern New York’s Olympic Development Program, competing in ODP for six years, and used it as a springboard to represent the USA internationally.
“From the age of nine, Crystal displayed a tremendous desire to learn about the game. Her drive and desire to understand all the things you teach a developing youth player were incredible. Crystal’s energy and courage for her size were as impressive as her desire to learn,” commented Tim Bradbury, who coached Crystal on her two Rockville Centre youth teams and is now Eastern New York’s Director of Coaching Instruction.
Crystal starred as the USA won the 2012 Under-20 World Cup in Japan. But as the last cut on the 2015 US Women’s National Team which lifted the Women’s World Cup trophy last summer, Crystal turned that snub into an opportunity to show off her skills, finishing the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) regular season with a league-high 15 goals for the Washington Spirit and winning the NWSL Most Valuable Player award. She was soon wearing the red, white and blue again and has scored 14 goals in 15 international games.
Fans, former teammates and coaches plus Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray wished Crystal well in bringing back the gold medal at her hometown’s send-off event at Darcy Field on Peninsula Boulevard on July 13.
Now 28 years old, Allie Long took the long and winding road back to the US Women’s National Team. She started playing soccer for the LIJSL’s Northport/Cow Harbor Mustangs and completed her youth career playing for the Oceanside Express and the Albertson Express of the LIJSL, winning four consecutive State Open Cup titles with the Express. Allie used being a member of the Olympic Development Program for five years to represent the United States internationally with the US Women’s National Team and Under-23 Team.
The East Northport resident played on top teams as a young woman wherever there was a game, with the Long Island Fury of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, then professionally with the Washington Freedom and Sky Blue FC of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), for Paris Saint-Germain in France after WPS folded, then with the New York Fury of WPSL Elite and for the past four years with the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Last fall, she made it back onto the US Women’s National Team in midfield.
Paul Riley coached Allie on both Fury teams plus in Portland and stated, “Great vision, top level range of passing and a work ethic second to none. She has a million dollar ball and can unlock any defense. We are extremely proud of her career!“
Sue Bird of Syosset has already won three gold medals with the US Women’s Basketball Team at the Summer Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012 plus two Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) championships with the Seattle Storm. But like Crystal and Allie, the 35-year-old grew up playing in the LIJSL, first with a Syosset Soccer Club boys team that competed in LIJSL Division 1 and then as a central midfielder and forward with regional champion HBC Nasty Girls from age 11 to age 16, when she decided to concentrate on basketball. Sue also played for the LIJSL Select Program.
Joe Lee coached her on HBC and remembers her well. “Sue was a very humble person and a super nice kid! Her instincts were so good, she was like a coach on the field. I truly believe that if she had stuck with soccer, she would have made the US Women’s National Team!“
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.