Three more players return to the North Carolina Courage for 2018

The Courage have at least 12 players returning from the 2017 Shield winning team, in addition to new-addition Crystal Dunn. McCall Zerboni, Denise O'Sullivan, and Meredith Speck all re-sign.

Three more players return to the North Carolina Courage for 2018
McCall Zerboni (right) scored the first goal in Courage history against the Washington Spirit. | Source: @ExcelleSports

After a week that saw the departure of three players from the 2017 roster, three different players have committed to the North Carolina Courage for the 2018 National Women's Soccer League season. Midfielders McCall Zerboni, Denise O'Sullivan, and Meredith Speck have all renewed their contracts, as of Wednesday, for the upcoming season. The news comes after Sam Witteman left to play in the Netherlands and a blockbuster trade sent defender Taylor Smith and forward Ashley Hatch to the Washington Spirit to get the rights to Crystal Dunn. Dunn left the Spirit before the 2017 season to play with Chelsea in England, but she has committed to returning before preseason training camp with the Courage.

Zerboni won the hearts of Courage players in the team's first game when she scored the only goal in a 1-0 road win against the Spirit to start the 2017 season. The win would set the tone for a season where the Courage would dominate road opponents; the Courage were the only team in the NWSL to have a winning record on the road in 2017. She played in 23 of the 24 games, missing one game due to yellow card accumulation, and playing the entire length of 22 games. She scored three goals and tallied one assist. Zerboni, 31, is entering her sixth season in the NWSL and played in her first US Women's National Team game against South Korea in 2017. The game was played in Cary, NC at the same stadium where the Courage play their home games, WakeMed Soccer Park. For her excellent play during the 2017 season, she was selected as a member of the NWSL Best XI.

Denise O'Sullivan takes the ball up the sideline in the NWSL Championship Game against the Portland Thorns. | Photo: Andrew Bershaw - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Denise O'Sullivan takes the ball up the sideline in the NWSL Championship Game against the Portland Thorns. | Photo: Andrew Bershaw - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Irish international Denise O'Sullivan joined the team in the middle of the season after her minutes with the Houston Dash dried up after Omar Morales took over as interim head coach. She was waived by the Dash and picked up by the Courage, who had a free international spot after Yuri Kawamura tore her ACL. O'Sullivan and Debinha alternated in the attacking midfielder role for the Courage, and O'Sullivan endeared herself to the Courage fans when she scored the only goal in the 90th minute of a 1-0 playoff win over the Chicago Red Stars. The Courage had lost to the Red Stars in their three regular-season meetings. The trade for Crystal Dunn included an international roster spot that allowed the Courage to keep O'Sullivan, Kawamura, Debinha, and Abby Erceg

Speck played four years at Yale before going to Sweden to play with Västerås BK30 in 2015. She returned to the United States and played with the Western New York Flash during the 2016 season before they transitioned to North Carolina and rebranded. She played in four games during the inaugural 2017 season, and head coach Paul Riley said: "Mer has made big strides over the last few years, and I'm excited for her growth to make the final step to full-time starter.”

The Courage will look to make new additions to their team on Thursday at the 2018 NWSL College Draft. The Courage hold five different draft slots