Julie Ertz is back with the U.S. women’s national team for the first time in close to two years and after a long period away due to the recent birth of her son in August, the veteran midfielder is ready to pick up where she left off.
Ertz was called in to Vlatko Andonovski’s 26-player roster for a pair of upcoming home friendlies against the Republic of Ireland. The 30-year-old has not featured for the USWNT since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and is grateful to be included ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand.
“I think clearly, the love for the game is hard to step away from,” Ertz told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “Obviously coming back from pregnancy changes things, obviously your body. So I just wanted to make sure when I was coming back that I felt like I was strong enough to be able to feel like I could be myself.
“I’m very grateful to be back and it’s really cool to see the girls and the energy of a World Cup year,” she added.
Ertz is currently without a club following her long layoff but is reportedly in talks with a few over a move back to the professional level. The veteran midfielder logged 95 appearances for the Chicago Red Stars from 2014-2021, earning five individual honors in the NWSL and becoming a prominent face with the USWNT.
Ertz has lifted two World Cups with the USWNT including a bronze medal with the Americans in Tokyo during the rescheduled Olympics. Her experience on-and-off the field is a benefit to only Andonovski and his coaching staff, but to the younger Players in the USWNT squad that are trying to earn their own spot on the World Cup roster this summer.
“She brings a positive energy and a lot of encouragement, which is great,” USWNT attacker Sophia Smith said about Ertz. “In this environment, especially for us younger Players to hear coming from a veteran, a player who’s done it all. So the energy she’s been bringing is great, and technically she looks like she hasn’t missed a beat.”
Ertz has been at home for majority of the past year-and-a-half following the birth of her son Madden in August. With only three months until the World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand, Ertz will be up against the clock to get back to top shape and replicate her impact in the USWNT from years prior.
“Emotionally I feel good. I’m in a good head space to just understand, to give myself a little bit of grace,” Ertz said. “But overall, I feel like being in this environment, the game and really the mental side has always been the hardest section, especially being with such elite Players day in and day out.
“So that almost was the one that I wanted to really focus on coming in here because coming back pregnant or not, five years ago, whatever, you have good days and bad days and it’s just making sure that you can control…the technical side is what you can control, that stuff,” she added. “And the mental side, I wanted to make sure that I was focused on as well.”
Ertz rejoins a USWNT midfielder corps which features veterans Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle, both of whom have 80+ caps for the program. Both Horan and Lavelle have continued to blossom into key leaders and performers with the USWNT over the years, and Ertz’s return could see Andonovski shake up the tactics to get the best from his Players.
Although Ertz hasn’t been in traveling with the team over the past year, she has remained focused on the success of the program and already knows what to expect over the next week in terms of World Cup preparation.
“I’ve been in really good conversations with Vlatko, just what they’ve been looking at, what they’ve been trying to do about each game,” said Ertz. “It’s been a little bit different from game to game, so it’s been fun listening to what he sees, and allowing [me] to ask questions.
“It’s kind of been a fun, I wouldn’t say a challenge, but it’s just a different way, obviously, of approaching it but at the same time, it’s the same because, when it comes to World Cup time, it’s all about details.”