Despite a much-improved performance in its round-of-16 matchup with Sweden, the U.S. women’s national team exited the Women’s World Cup in heartbreaking fashion Sunday, losing in a seven-round penalty shootout. Lina Hurtig’s decisive penalty crossed the goal line by a matter of millimeters.
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) August 6, 2023
The U.S. had reached the semifinals in all eight of the previous World Cups and could have become the first team ever — men’s or women’s — to win the tournament three consecutive times. After struggling in the group stage, the U.S. put 12 shots on goal to Sweden’s one, but could not find the back of the net in normal time or the 30 minutes of extra time.
“It was time for us to obviously step up,” defender Julie Ertz said following the loss. “We know that we weren’t putting our performances together, but it was coming together at the right time, and we felt like that was happening. But, unluckily, we won’t have that opportunity to be able to continue and show what we have.”
Ertz played every minute of the tournament at center back, a position she had not consistently played since the 2016 Olympics. The U.S. only conceded one goal and two shots on target in four games with Ertz anchoring the back line.
And that appears to be the last time we’ll see Ertz in a USWNT jersey. In multiple postgame interviews, the 31-year-old implied she was retiring from the national team.
“Sometimes you learn the most from your failures, which sucks, but it’s part of my career as well,” she told ESPN. “Unfortunately, this is my last time in this crest, so I’m excited for them in the future.”
In a different interview with FOX, Ertz said she “probably” would never represent the U.S. again and got emotional reflecting on her time with the national team.
“It’s been an absolute ride,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself, as a player but even just as a person. This team obviously competes and plays soccer, but it does so much more, and I’m just very grateful.”
"It's an honor to represent this team, and I'm excited for the future of these girls."
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023
Ertz has played in three World Cups and two Olympics, becoming a world champion twice and winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. She earned her 100th cap on March 5, 2020, and went 611 days between appearances with the U.S. after stepping away from the sport following the birth of her son, Madden. She returned in April for the final national team camp before the World Cup, and signed a one-year deal with Angel City in the National Women’s Soccer League.
.@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
Throughout her soccer journey, Ertz has leaned on her faith, which she says has always been part of her life. But she said on the “Recalibrated” podcast in 2020 that she didn’t fully understand what it meant to have a relationship with Christ until she was in college at Santa Clara. When her husband, Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz, was with the Philadelphia Eagles, she led multiple women’s Bible studies.
Studying Scripture has helped her grow in a variety of ways.
“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.”
Ahead of the U.S.’s group stage finale against Portugal, she posted a picture on Instagram from the team’s previous game against the Netherlands. Included in the caption was “AO1,” which stands for “audience of One.”
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Prior to the 2019 World Cup, Ertz appeared on the cover of Sports Spectrum’s Summer 2019 magazine. In the feature story, she discussed how her faith plays into her career.
“There are so many things you can’t control. I try to really be in tune with the Word and continue my growth. When I do, I’m a better athlete on the field. I’ve shifted my perspective so that when I go out, I go out to glorify Him,” she said.
Ertz will now turn her attention back to Angel City and try to help the club reach the playoffs. Angel City returns to action against Racing Louisville on Aug. 19 and is four points out of a playoff spot with seven games remaining in the regular season.
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