North Carolina Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni made history last weekend as she notched the club’s first-ever goal in a 1-0 victory against the Washington Spirit in Week 1 of NWSL play. The LA native played in 14 matches last year for the 2016 NWSL Champions, the Western New York Flash. The NWSL veteran, who–along with her teammates–is settling into a new home in North Carolina, is encouraged by all the work the team has put in to date and is excited about how dynamic her squad is this year. I chatted with McCall Zerboni on the outlook for the season for the Courage, the state of the league and how far it’s come, who her must-have Twitter follows are and more!
Hannah Kronick: You guys had a great start to the season last weekend with a 1-0 win over the Spirit. Can you talk a bit about getting the first win under your belt and what it was like to finally get going after a long preseason?
McCall Zerboni: I was really encouraged because we had a really good preseason. We worked extremely hard. I was encouraged by the way everyone came in–during the off season, everyone goes their separate ways so you get a sense of their focus and commitment by the way they arrive to preseason. Everyone arrived in tip-top shape ready to go and super driven, so that was really exciting. Then, to start the season off on a good foot with a win was super cool for us and instrumental to start the year.
HK: What’s it like to have your name attached to the first-ever goal for the North Carolina Courage?
MZ: It’s an honor. The club has been so good to us so far–since it wasn’t the easiest transition originally for the players, the coaches and the staff [moving to North Carolina]. But, they have done a very professional job and have been very thoughtful and caring, to help our transition here be as smooth as possible. They’ve supported us with whatever we need. Since we arrived, everything has been amazing–from our reception from the community, the excitement buzzing around town, to how supportive the staff has been. It feels good to give back to the club because they’ve been good to us so far.
HK: That’s great, and it leads me to my next question. You mentioned the transition. How has it been to start this year as reigning national champs but now represent a new city?
MZ: It really came as a shock to all of us. We weren’t expecting this. Like anything, change takes time. It’s a tribute to the group, that they’ve rolled with the punches. It’s been really neat to see the way that everyone has handled the change and I think that’s the resiliency and the character of the group.
HK: Switching gears a bit to the more tactical side of the game, what should fans expect to see from the Courage this year?
MZ: The strength of this group is that we are very dynamic. We are obviously very attack-minded, there’s no secret there. We are a high-pressing, attacking team with a lot of attacking weapons. But we’ve added some new pieces and elements to the team, which will really keep the opponent guessing and keep our options open no matter how we decide to come out against a certain opponent. We have that capability to put different pieces into place. We were really strong last year and to come back with 85% of the same squad and then add a couple more pieces in there is really encouraging.
HK: Nice. That’s awesome. We talked a bit earlier about the positive feedback surrounding the first Lifetime broadcast of the NWSL and how exciting the relationship there is to grow the game. Since you’ve been in this league in its entirety, what are your thoughts on where it’s been, where it is right now and where you see it going?
MZ: It’s no secret it started off at a minimum. WPS folding scared everyone straight. So we were going to play it cautious and play it safe. I give love, inspiration, and encouragement to everyone that’s been involved with this–that were there for year 1, 2, 3, 4 because they are a big part of helping us grow. It’s also no secret that we don’t have a lot to stand for financially–but it’s improving and that’s the state of the league. Everyone’s making sacrifices right now for the future generations to come, and we are very well aware of this. From Year 1 to Year 5, it’s been astronomically different in positive ways. With all the progress we have made in the past five years, I just think about what it will look like five years from now–when the league has been in existence for 10 years. It’s going to be such an amazing and wonderful place for players to play, and that’s what we think about and what we hope for.
HK: For sure. So, more individually, what are your goals this year?
MZ: I don’t really set goals on the field. I set goals in my life in the person that I want to be. I use soccer as a tool to shine light into other people’s lives to make other people feel loved and encouraged. Most of the time, I am training to be the best player I can be, and hopefully that will inspire somebody else around me. I hope that what I do day in and day out on and off the field is just (be) the kind of person that I want to exude. But, every year I want to get to that level–I want to push to win a championship, push to win the league, push to put a solid performance in every game.
HK: That’s a great mindset to have. Outside of soccer, what are you up to when you’re not training?
MZ: I am really into my family. They’re a big part of me so being away from them is difficult, so I love to spend time with them when I can. I love studying Spanish. I am really into the Spanish culture and the Latin American culture and am currently trying to become fluent in Spanish. I also do love to get my hands on the community as much as I can–whether I am doing charitable work or helping out, I love to give a helping hand wherever it is. I have a charity [MZ & Emmer] that I do on my own for breast cancer–I am super passionate about finding a cure and research for breast cancer so I spend quite a lot of time working on MZ & Emmer. I’m always looking for things to better myself and better the people around me. We have a solid group here that are believers and have a really good Bible study. We’re getting involved in our churches and in other things in the community.
HK: That’s great. To completely switch gears, since you’re a big Twitter user, I like to ask this question because it really makes people think. If you could only follow five people on Twitter, who would they be?
MZ: For sure it would be John Wooden (if he was still alive). Another would be John Gordon, the sports writer. I would choose Kobe Bryant. Growing up in the LA area, he was always a hero athlete to me. I would follow one funny account to make me laugh like those troll accounts. Probably a news account to stay up to date with what was going on in the world.
McCall Zerboni and the North Carolina Courage are back in action on Saturday, April 22 as they host Portland Thorns FC at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. Kick-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thursday Q&A will feature a conversation with a different NWSL player or personality each week; find them all here.