USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski: No one's forcing Crystal Dunn to play left-back if she's unhappy

U.S. women's national team manager Vlatko Andonovski said that do-everything defender Crystal Dunn can compete at any position she wants if she's unhappy about playing left-back.

Dunn is as versatile a player as there is in the women's game given her ability to excel in multiple spots on the field. She has spent the bulk of her club career playing as either a midfielder or a forward.

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But with the USWNT -- arguably the deepest squad in the world -- she has had to play left-back. The switch was first made by former U.S. manager Tom Sermanni back in 2013, and has continued through the tenures of Jill Ellis and now Andonovski.

In an interview with GQ, published Friday Dunn expressed her dissatisfaction at playing left-back, and the emotional toll it takes on her.

"I think it's hard because I'm the only one who has to do it," she said. "I step into camp, and I feel like I lose a part of myself. I no longer get to be Crystal who scores goals, assists, is this attacking player.

"I step into an environment where I have to be world-class in a position that I don't think is my best position. But I've owned it. I've made it my own, and I've tried to create it in my most authentic way. But I don't love it.

"I love playing and I love competing, so that brings me up to the level that I need to be at, but it really is hard when I look around and I'm like, 'Well, no one else has to do this.' I am the only person who does not stay put in one position and always has to change given what my coach thinks of me."

Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday's match against Japan in the SheBelieves Cup, Andonovski said it's something he's discussed with Dunn in the past, but noted the level of competition she would face elsewhere.

"Obviously she's a world class player, but she has a choice too," he said. "She can compete at a midfield, though she has to compete with Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan and Catarina Macario when she comes in as well, right?

"So if she doesn't feel comfortable playing left-back, or she doesn't want to be left-back, nobody's forced to play in any position, right? As a left-back, she's world class and probably one of the best left-backs in the world. As a midfielder, she has pretty steep competition in that position. So everybody has a choice, and then we make the decisions."

When asked if Dunn could make headway playing out on the wing, Andonovski had a similar response.

"Any player can compete at any position and I would be open to anything," he said. "But if I was a player on the national team right now, Mallory Swanson is probably the last player that I would want to compete against.

"So, we don't exclude anything at this moment. And we see Crystal even throughout the games, she has the liberty to go forward as a left-wing. We have seen her in the middle getting the ball and doing her thing, which she's also special at in the midfield.

"But if we feel like at any point in time she's going to be better suited in those positions and give us the best chance to be successful, then we can see her there."

Dunn returned to the national team last October after giving birth to her son Marcel in May. Andonovski noted that sliding in at left-back is the "easiest thing for her to get back up" as she reintegrates herself with the side. But even after all these years, Dunn is still wrestling with having to play further back.

"It hurts at times," she told GQ. "I try to accept it as: it's a compliment, you get to play different positions, you're good at so many different things. But if I believe I'm good at this one thing, why doesn't my coach think I'm good at that one thing? Why would he or she move me?

"There are years that go by where I've owned it, I'm doing positive thinking about it, and then there's moments where I'm like, 'I don't think I could do another day of this.'"

When asked how he would handle Dunn's comments, Andonovski said it was the first time he had heard about them, and that of late Dunn hasn't expressed any dissatisfaction to him.

"Nobody's forced to play on the national team. Nobody's forced to play in any position," he said. "Every time I've talked to Crystal, she just shares how much she enjoys being on the team, and loves helping the team being successful.

"Obviously as a coach, I'm happy to hear that and I'm happy to help her in the position, or the tasks that she has to do."

Elaborating on her comments while speaking to media on Saturday, Dunn stressed that she was just being true to her feelings.

"I step into this environment, I know exactly what my role is," she said, via The Athletic. "I know my strengths.

"And it's not at all to say like, 'Hey, I am not happy.' But I think it's more so to say like, 'This is how I feel internally at times,' and it's OK to express that. It doesn't mean that I'm trying to cause havoc or a stir or anything like that. I think at the end of the day, it's really just being authentic."