When Julie Ertz stepped onto the field against Ireland on Saturday, it was her first appearance for the U.S. women’s national team in 611 days. An unexpected inclusion for the team’s final set of games before 2023 World Cup preparations begin in July, Ertz had stepped away from the sport after the birth of her son and is currently without a club.
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For the first time in 611 days, @julieertz is back on the field for the #USWNT 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/lyOQMwuQvp
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) April 8, 2023
The veteran midfielder and wife of NFL tight end Zach Ertz came on in the 67th minute and was given the captain’s armband in the 2-0 victory. She then played the second half of Tuesday’s rematch, a 1-0 win for the U.S.
“It feels like a long time and it doesn’t feel like a long time,” she said of her return. “I’m just excited to be here. I’m definitely taking it all in. Every moment, I just don’t want it to pass because I don’t want to forget any of it. I’ve never taken a moment of wearing this crest for granted, and even more so now.”
The occasion also allowed U.S. Soccer to celebrate Ertz reaching 100 caps, which happened back on March 5, 2020, but had never been officially recognized.
.@julieertz hit the 100 cap milestone waaaaayyy back on March 5, 2020 🧢🇺🇸
We never got to properly celebrate, so tune-in early for tomorrow's match as we give Julie her much-deserved flowers for hitting the century mark 💐 pic.twitter.com/NJQhxubZ7S
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) April 7, 2023
Returning before the World Cup roster is announced allowed Ertz to get reacquainted with her teammates and demonstrate to head coach Vlatko Andonovski why she should be headed to the tournament for a third time. The plan is for her to join a National Women’s Soccer League team soon, so rustiness should not be a concern by the time the World Cup comes around this summer.
Even if she isn’t quite back to being herself yet, Ertz’s leadership and ability to command the midfield were on display.
“When I’m talking, I’m more comfortable playing,” she said after Tuesday’s game. “Being able to do that allowed me to, hopefully, as seamlessly as possible, come in after being out a while. To have the respect of the team to be able to do that right away, I think has helped me.”
On Sunday, Ertz posted a picture on Instagram celebrating being back with the national team. She ended her caption with the Bible passage 1 Peter 1:6-7, which reads, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
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The longtime Chicago Red Stars player has constantly leaned on her faith as a pro. She said on the “Recalibrated” podcast that church was part of her childhood, but she didn’t truly understand what it meant to have a relationship with Christ until she was in college at Santa Clara. She believes diving into Scripture helps her grow in a variety of ways and she led multiple women’s groups while her husband was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“When I read the Word,” Ertz said on the podcast, “I feel like I have a better understanding of not just how to be a better person, but a better supporter, a better wife, a better friend, and really just see life in a more clear perspective.”
Speaking to the media last week ahead of the USWNT’s two games, Ertz made it clear she will not be satisfied with simply being the same player she was before having her child.
“I don’t even want to go back and be the player that I was because I want to be better,” she said. “And I know that seems weird being out long … I don’t feel like I’ve been gone as long as I have. I feel good, and I love the sport differently than I did then. And I thought I loved it then. But taking a step away and kind of having a new perspective has given me kind of like a new drive.”
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