USWNT’s Julie Ertz steps back into the center back position at the World Cup, ready to provide whatever the team needs.


Julie Ertz steps back into the center-back position at the World Cup

Amidst the glittering trophies and accolades of the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT), one aspect often overlooked is their remarkable unselfishness. Each of the 23 players on the roster boasts star-quality talent, having been the best player on her respective team or position for a significant part of her career. However, on the USWNT, not all can claim the spotlight as starring players. Some will embrace unsung roles, doing the gritty work necessary to secure victories and score crucial goals. Others will act as backups or may never get the chance to step onto the field.

Moreover, some players might find themselves occupying positions that they aren’t accustomed to or haven’t played in years. One such example is Julie Ertz, who recently returned to the center back position during a triumphant match against Vietnam. It was only her third game back with the USWNT since the Tokyo Olympics, and she had not consistently played as a center back since 2017.

Ertz is no stranger to versatility, which is a crucial trait in the national team setup. She recognizes the importance of adapting to different roles and fulfilling whatever the team requires of her. In the past, she excelled as a center back, contributing significantly to the USWNT’s World Cup victory in 2015, where they conceded a mere three goals throughout the tournament. Her transition to the defensive midfielder position in 2017 was equally fruitful, earning her the prestigious U.S. Soccer Player of the Year award for that year and again in 2019.

Despite a knee injury before the Tokyo Olympics and becoming a mother to her son Madden last August, Ertz’s determination to represent her country remained unwavering. When she expressed her desire to return for the World Cup, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski suggested a potential shift back to her former center back role. This idea became a necessity when Becky Sauerbrunn suffered a foot injury, opening the door for Ertz to step into the position once more.

Andonovski was impressed with Ertz’s seamless adjustment to the backline, showcasing her exceptional abilities in possession and out of possession. Her performance was so impressive that it was easy to forget she hadn’t played center back regularly since 2017, and even longer since the USWNT’s opening match in the 2019 World Cup.

To put things into perspective, Ertz’s partner in the backline, Naomi Girma, was part of the U-19 squad when Ertz last played as a center back regularly. The transformation of positions and the enduring dedication of players like Julie Ertz exemplify the USWNT’s collective commitment to excellence and their willingness to adapt for the team’s success.

Julie Ertz returns
Julie Ertz returns

“Na’s great. I love the communication” with her, Ertz said. “We’re just really committed to being the best we can be, so that communication is a huge start.”

Outsiders might think it’s a given that USWNT players will put aside their personal wants and ambitions for the good of the team. But they are human like anyone else, with egos and pride. To accept a role, whether it’s one you don’t really want or one you’re not used to, is not a small thing and should not be overlooked.

Crystal Dunn plays left back for the USWNT despite being an excellent midfielder with the Portland Thorns. She doesn’t love it, but she does it because it’s what she’s asked and it’s what the USWNT needs.

Ditto for Ertz. She wanted back on this team, in whatever capacity Andonovski asked her to play.

“She was offered the task and immediately said, ‘Coach, whatever we need to do to win this thing,'” Andonovski recalled.

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