By Tim Nash
Darren Powell has made a career out of recognizing soccer talent, and he knew there was something special about Gianluca Busio when he first saw him.
Even if Busio was just five years old at the time.
“Gianluca and my son Caleb are the same age and played on the same team when they were little,” says Powell, the former coach at Elon University, former Academy Director at Orlando FC, and now the head coach of the USL’s San Antonio FC.
“Even as a five-year-old, he stood out on the field with exceptional technical ability,” says Powell. “He had the ability to run with a soccer ball with coordination and balance. It’s just looked very natural.”
So, Powell was among the people completely unsurprised on Aug. 24 when Gianluca Busio (jahn-LOOKA BOO-see-o), a quick, creative and versatile forward, became the second-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract at 15 years and 89 days. His signing came on the heels of a five-goals-in-five-game performance with the U.S. U15 National team at the CONCACAF Championships earlier this month.
By Tim Nash
“McCall Zerboni was brilliant again tonight.”
That’s what North Carolina Courage coach said after his veteran midfielder set up the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win over the Seattle Reign on July 8 in Cary, N.C.
But it’s not the first time Riley has uttered that sentence. He has coached Zerboni for three straight seasons now and has come to expect brilliance from the 30-year-old, nine-year.
“She just gets in great areas, her distribution is great, and she leads the league in winning duels and tackles,” said Riley. “But it’s her reading of the game that probably the most important thing for us. She picks off so many passes that are going into pockets. She starts the attack and she is very much on the end of the attack as well.”
The skills Riley describes – winning tackles, reading the game, covering group –come from years of experience and dedication to fitness. Zerboni’s professional career dates back to 2009 when she was drafted out of UCLA with the 48th pick of the old WPS draft. Since then, she’s played for six professional teams in three U.S.-based leagues.
“For me, it doesn’t get easier,” she says. “It’s gets harder so it requires more focus, more dedication and more sacrifice.”
The dedication and sacrifice have paid off. She says she is the fittest she’s ever been. But that doesn’t stop Riley from closely monitoring her. Continue reading
By Tim Nash
On Aug 19, for the 10th time in 18 games this season, the North Carolina Courage looked at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see a zero under their opponent’s name.
Ten shutouts have helped the Courage, who have allowed a league-low 14 goals through 18 games, secure a place atop the NWSL standings for most of the 2017 season.
The stingy defense can be credited to a number of different factors – a high-pressing defense starting athletic forwards, like Ashley Hatch, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams, an organized and aggressive midfield led by Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni, and backline that features a veteran from New Zealand, Abby Erceg, and three players who have caught the eye of U.S. National team coach Jill Ellis – Jaelene Hinkle, Taylor Smith and Abby Dahlkemper. In goal, both Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo have shared the duties. Continue reading