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Dani Gunderson’s return is the spark the Columbus Eagles needed

After missing three games due to injury, Gunderson thrives in midfield.

Dani Gunderson celebrates with Eagles teammates after she scores her second goal of the afternoon against Cincinnati.
Sam Fahmi

When Dani Gunderson’s week began, she wasn’t sure if she was going to be involved in the Eagles’ biggest match of the season.

The midfielder had missed three matches due to a lingering hamstring injury that had nagged her for several weeks. Gunderson tried to play through the pain, but was only able to do so much.

After speaking with the Eagles athletic trainer Shayna Nickel, Gunderson was advised to cease training and take it easy. This involved skipping training sessions and missing games, but also focused on flexibility and doing simple exercises.

The injury didn’t sit well with Gunderson who knew that her family was coming up to Columbus to see her play at MAPFRE.

She recalled speaking with her mother on the phone and when Gunderson told her she might not play, Mama Gunderson said she didn’t care and was coming to see her anyway. Regardless, Gunderson followed the advice of the training staff and worked hard to get back as quickly as possible.

Despite the time missed, Gunderson remained positive. Although she had been hurt for a while, she never showed a dip in emotion and always remained positive.

“Her energy is contagious,” explained forward Alexa Cheripko.

When Gunderson is on the field for the Eagles, the team plays different. She often plays as the team’s No. 10 and is responsible for creating opportunities for the Columbus side. They take more chances and are more creative.

“With her on the field [her attitude] spreads to everyone,” said Cheripko. “It makes everyone work and play harder and want to be more creative.”

The Eagles and Gunderson responded on Saturday afternoon in a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Cincinnati Sirens. After the match, Gunderson was thrilled to be back with her team.

“It was amazing,” she exclaimed postgame. “I was waiting for it all week and have been out for three weeks. I got the go ahead to train on Tuesday.”

Gunderson wasted no time in making an impact in the match. She had the primary assist on a corner kick that found the head of Corie Moore to tie the game. Then she chipped the Cincinnati goalkeeper when she came off her line. Finally for the coup de grace, Gunderson put the Eagles on the board for the fourth time for a final scoreline of 4-2.

“It’s great to be back with the team and playing again,” she said following the performance.

Gunderson feels the team is improving every week as they make a push into the second half of their schedule.

“I think we’re getting better and better.”