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Julie Ertz is back to take control

Ertz’s improbable return to the field has boosted the USWNT’s defensive options.

Ireland v United States

On Feb. 1, United States Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski was on a virtual press conference to discuss the release of his SheBelieves Cup roster. As the questions continued, Andonovski was asked about players who weren’t in camp due to injury or maternity leave. It was here that the USWNT head coach mentioned Julie Ertz’s chances of returning in time for the Women’s World Cup.

“Another person that hasn’t been in camp for a while is Julie Ertz. ... We see that she hasn’t committed to any team in the [NWSL] so far. Time is running out for her and she’s someone that we’re probably not going to be able to count on in the World Cup.”

This sent shock waves throughout the women’s soccer community, as many had held out hope that Ertz would be able to return to the team in time for the World Cup. There were even many who speculated about her future in soccer, as overcoming injury and then being out on maternity leave left many believing she could be done with the game for good.

Less than two months later, Andonovski released his roster for a set of April friendlies against Ireland, and the midfielder who was originally all but ruled out of the World Cup was back on it, having returned to training and desperate to show that she could still be an asset for the team as they defend their title.

On April 8, before a sold-out crowd at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Ertz stepped onto the field as a substitute for Andi Sullivan, her first USWNT action in 611 days. Fighting her way back from injury and then having a baby and working back into fitness during maternity leave, Ertz looked as great as ever, and her presence is a huge boost to the team on the defensive side of the ball.

Ireland v USWNT

Ertz has since signed with Angel City FC and has worked her way back into full fitness, prompting Andonovski to name her to the World Cup roster. The 31-year-old defensive midfielder can play at the 6, helping keep the defensive unit intact while players run forward. She can also play centerback, which has been considered as an option with captain Becky Sauerbrunn out of the roster due to injury.

But don’t think Julie Ertz will just chill in the back while others move forward to score. She wants to quarterback the attack as well, and she has the innate ability to move into positions where she can also take shots and score. With 20 goals for the USWNT, she’s able to make teams pay by putting the ball in the back of the net. On set pieces, she’s a threat in the air, which will pose problems to the opposition.

Ireland v USWNT

On top of everything, she is always a player you can count on to rally her teammates and lead by example. This will be her third World Cup, and she’s only seen nothing but trophies and ticker-tape parades. With how she fought to return from everything, battling adversity along the way, she does not want to waste this opportunity. Facing the chance to make soccer history, she’s going to be right there alongside her teammates, getting them pumped and ready to play. Once they hit the field, she will be the general, ensuring the defense remains organized while trying to send balls forward to the dangerous forwards and wingers.

Ertz will be one of the main players to watch as the United States takes on the world once again. She’s bringing a determination that we haven’t seen from many people, and she wants so badly to be on the field to help this team earn a third consecutive Women’s World Cup title.