The Unknown International: Abby Erceg

Kelley Piper

While the NWSL is the American soccer league, many of its best players come from all around the world. This series looks at some of those players who have come from outside of the U.S. and looks at their style of play and how they have featured for their club and country.

This article will look at North Carolina Courage and New Zealand defender Abby Erceg.

Who Is She?

Abby Erceg is a central defender who plays for the North Carolina Courage. She is the former captain of the New Zealand national team, having retired from international football earlier this year as a form of protest, claiming that the national federation undervalues New Zealand’s women’s team. She is an experienced professional, playing for the Football Ferns since 2006. Odds are you have heard her name–after all, she captained the NWSL champions last season and has been in the league for about three years. While I recognize that Erceg is not an unknown player, this article will seek to highlight the details of her career that fans may be less familiar with.

The Football Ferns

Erceg made her debut with the New Zealand National Team in 2006, in a match against China. In her 11 year career with the Ferns, she competed in two Olympics and three World Cups. Her 130 appearances are the most of any New Zealand National Team player, male or female. Early in her career, she played a record 37 consecutive matches for her national team, setting her on the path towards a record-breaking career. Beyond her skill with the ball, she is also a consistently strong and vocal leader that helps lHer decision to retire came from disagreements with the New Zealand Football Federation, which Erceg claims did not value and support the women’s side.  Specifically, Erceg took issue with the fact that the federation decided to reduce funding to the women’s side after they failed to make it past the group stage at the 2016 Olympics. She said in a post on Instagram that one of her main goals with the Ferns was to create a livable working environment and that New Zealand had shown a lack of willingness to make that goal a reality. Many in the football community deemed her a “legend” in New Zealand football and credited her with being a massive contributor to the growth of the women’s game. She served as their captain starting in 2014 and played her final matches with the team at the Cyprus Cup earlier this year. 

North Carolina Courage

Erceg got her first taste of the NWSL in 2014 when she was loaned out to the Chicago Red Stars by Jena, her team in the Frauen-Bundesliga. She signed with the Chicago after leaving Jena in May 2014 but was then traded to the Western New York Flash in 2015. Last season, she made 18 starts in 19 total appearances and captained the Western New York Flash to an NWSL Championship. During the offseason, the Western New York Flash were rebranded as the North Carolina Courage, and Erceg became captain of the new team in Cary. She has made 15 starts in 15 appearances so far this season. She is often credited as being the anchor of the Courage defense.  Erceg mainly plays alongside Abby Dahlkemper, who has received a few call-ups by the U.S Women’s National Team after drawing some attention during the Flash’s run to the NWSL Championship.  They have become one of the best center back tandems in the league, and their strength has helped lead to North Carolina’s 10 shutouts in 18 matches this season.  To say that Erceg plays a critical role on her club team is putting it lightly–and considering they are in first place in the NWSL, I’d say she’s doing a pretty good job. Erceg rarely misses a chance to make an impact for her club and will do whatever it takes to help get her team back to the NWSL Championship.

Image courtesy of Kelley Piper
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