The indispensable Julie Ertz is back

Julie Ertz wasn't always a central midfielder for the U.S. national team, but since she moved into midfield she's been arguably the USA's most indispensable player.

Injured in the Chicago Red Stars' NWSL regular-season opener on May 16, Ertz had not again played a game until she entered the USA's opening game at the Olympics against Sweden in the second half. The USA was a mess and suffered a 3-0 loss, its worst defeat in a competitive match in almost 14 years.

On Saturday, Ertz started against New Zealand, and it was a different story. The marauding Ertz helped stabilize the midfield and provided the assist on Lindsey Horan's goal just before halftime that changed the complexion of the game.

Instead of leading, 1-0, after a somewhat nervy display -- the Football Ferns almost equalized shortly before Horan's goal -- the USA went into the break with a 2-0 lead and breezed to a 6-1 win in Saitama.

Before the match, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said the minute restriction on Ertz for the first game was lifted, and he expected her to play more minutes against New Zealand. Ertz went the distance and finished with two assists.

“I think we had more energy from the get-go,” Ertz told reporters after the match. “We came out wanting to score goals and make a statement. Obviously, we weren’t satisfied with the last game and we had to have a fresh start. And we were able to do that.”

Ertz (née Johnston) was a midfielder at Santa Clara University but played at center back when she won the Bronze Ball at the 2012 Under-20 World Cup in Japan, where the USA defeated Germany, 1-0, in the final.

Her emergence on the senior national team came relatively late in the 2015 World Cup cycle. Captain Christie Rampone was injured at the Algarve Cup, and Ertz was inserted into the lineup. Rampone, who finished her career with 311 caps, never won her starting job back, and Ertz played every minute of the seven games at the World Cup alongside Becky Sauerbrunn in the middle of the backline.

Ertz remained on the backline at the 2016 Olympics, where the USA was eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals, but she moved to midfield afterwards and has played there almost every game ever since. (She replaced the injured Sauerbrunn at center back for the opening game of the 2019 World Cup, the 13-0 demolition of France.)

"I love being a center back, don’t get me wrong,” she said before the tournament in France. “But I love the new challenges of being a midfielder, but it doesn’t mean I still can’t be a defensive-minded midfielder first."

Ertz's two assists against New Zealand give her  six assists in 112 games for the USA to go along with 20 goals.

"I love having my own creativity on the attack and being in there as well," she said, "but at the end of the day, I know my role is to break up plays and do whatever they ask of me.”

Ertz's presence in the U.S. lineup gave Horan, who played the No. 6 role in Ertz's absence, more freedom to move into the attack. That quickly paid off as Horan was free at the top of the penalty area to feed Tobin Heath, whose pass set up Rose Lavelle for the game's first goal.

“In this game, it was coming out and changing absolutely everything,” Horan said. “Changing our approach, our mentality, doing everything we possibly could to not have that same feeling at the start."

12 comments about "The indispensable Julie Ertz is back".
  1. Santiago 1314, July 25, 2021 at 12:12 a.m.

    Excellent timing to be Playing NZ in her Rehab... I Hope she can "WILL" this team to Victory... Because our Technique, Tactics and Fitness aren't "Up" to It.!!!

  2. R2 Dad, July 25, 2021 at 1:55 a.m.

    My only prediction for the Aussi match is there will be injury(s) that will affect the starting XI. Going to be physical, weather might be a factor. Matches are too close together, someone is bound not to be match fit once the knockout rounds begin. The starting front line didn't score against the Kiwis--that must be taken into account.

  3. Barry Ulrich, July 25, 2021 at 7:47 a.m.

    USNWT defeated Thailand (NOT France) 13-0 in 2019 World Cup!  The games were HOSTED by France, however.

  4. Philip Larkin, July 25, 2021 at 8:29 a.m.

    Ertz is there to play and win matches not make political statements. Refreshing.

  5. Michael In Bruges replied, July 25, 2021 at 9:09 a.m.

    Look at her Twitter page - she's just as vocal about social issues as any other WNT player. They're all there to "play and win matches," aren't they?

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, July 25, 2021 at 9:24 a.m.

    Everywhere I go on line I see people spreading lies saying that the USWNT knelt during the national anthem in the 2020 Olympics. I even saw a old picture from before 2017 cropped to eliminate the She Believes Cup Banner so people would think it was a picture of the 2020 Olympics.

    Who is it that benefits from spreading false news and fake pictures smearing the USWNT? There is no partisan political advantage to be gained from it. The only suspects that come to mind is the Russians. They are attacking all segments of our society to turn everyone against each other and destroy people's faith in our institutions. The Olympic committee prohibits political statements during anthems and during medal ceremonies. The Olympic committe has established a 10 second period prior to kickoff when people may kneel to protest racial injustice. After the Floyd murder, it became a common practice in Europe. From what I have seen so far everyone kneels during that time including the players on both teams and the officials.   

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, July 25, 2021 at 9:37 a.m.

    By the way if you actually watched the New Zealand match, you would know that Ertz knelt like everyone else.

  8. Robert Ray, July 25, 2021 at 9:08 a.m.

    The starting front line didn't score against the Kiwi's primarily because Rapinoe continued here horrible play.  Slow and lazy, she continued to consistently pass the ball to our opponent and play greedy football.  

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, July 25, 2021 at 7:37 p.m.

    I disagree. They didn't score because New Zealand did an excellent job playing the off-side trap. Four goals were called back for offside.

  10. Chance Hall, July 25, 2021 at 10 a.m.

    The US is a totally different team when Ertz is on the field. She is their energizer bunny. Hustle, hustle all the time. She wills them into the opponents half of the field. Truest leads by example. The others need to step up and play like her. Press needs to be up front on the left instead of peeno. Press is the threat. 

  11. Nick Gabris, July 25, 2021 at 11:12 a.m.

    Bencch Rapinoe!Too slow!! Put Press on the wing, she is more of a threat than R...Two best players on the field, Ertz and Lavelle, constantly active all over the field.  

  12. Paul Ferguson, July 25, 2021 at 1:03 p.m.

    Julie is indispensable in the midfield as an anchor for the team. It is great to see her back at full strength.

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