McCall Zerboni has been selected for her second NWSL Player of the Week award in 2018 after failing to win the award during her first six years with the National Women's Soccer League. The NWSL Media Association selected Zerboni after her dominant performance in the North Carolina Courage's 2-0 road win over the Houston Dash. Despite their best efforts, the Dash were unable to contain Zerboni, who has been on fire for the Courage this season. After scoring a brace and winning the Week 3 Player of the Week award, she is the first player to win the award twice in 2018 and the first to win the award without scoring a goal during the award week.
McCall Zerboni came into her own during the 2017 season when she played 23 out of 24 regular season games for the Courage, helping the team win the NWSL Supporters Shield and eventually a trip to the 2018 NWSL Championship game. She is known throughout the league for her tenacity and aggressive play on the pitch where she never gives up on balls and often surprises players by dispossessing them after being beaten on her initial challenge. Her work ethic and spirit have helped develop the strong team mentality that is pushed by head coach Paul Riley, and players have repeatedly pointed to her as one of the leaders of the team.
Houston Dash head coach Vera Pauw openly stated that her gameplan involved shutting down Zerboni and finding a way to keep her out of the game. To this end, Pauw loaded the midfield, hoping to keep pressure on attacking midfielder Denise O'Sullivan, flanking midfielders Kristen Hamilton and Crystal Dunn - both of whom scored in this match - and, of course, defending midfielder Zerboni. The plan backfired when the Courage beat the press and scored three minutes into the match. Despite their best efforts, the Dash were unable to slow Zerboni down. She ended the game with 87 touches on the ball, eight tackles won, and 83.6% passing accuracy against a loaded Houston midfield.
McCall Zerboni's play has been especially impressive considering her fellow central midfielder, Sam Mewis, has been injured. Mewis has played just 70 minutes in the six Courage matches this season after playing over 2000 minutes in 2017. There were concerns that Zerboni would be unable to hold her position and aggressively pursue the ball without Mewis as a backstop, but if anything Zerboni has looked even more confident in 2018. She has been active on offense and defense, helping the Courage secure first place and stay undefeated one-fourth of the way through their 2018 regular season. Even more impressively, Zerboni has helped the team secure four clean sheets already this season.
The first-place Courage (5W-1D-0L) will host the second-place Chicago Red Stars (2W-3D-1L) on Sunday at 3:00 pm ET at Sahlen's Stadium in Cary, NC.
The NWSL Player of the Week is selected each week of the regular season by the NWSL Media Association, a collection of writers that cover the league on a consistent basis.
Past NWSL Players of the Week
Week 1 - Megan Rapinoe
Week 2 - Mallory Pugh
Week 3 - McCall Zerboni
Week 4 - Sofia Huerta