Julie Ertz can’t remember a time when she wasn’t completely enthralled by soccer. For the 27-year-old midfielder, it’s not just a game, it’s a way of life.
“Growing up, I just fell in love with the sport right away,”
Ertz said. “I felt the most me when I was out there playing on the field.”
In 2017, she was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, and going into this summer, Ertz is expected to be a key component of the 2019 national team. She’s known for her ferocious tackling skills and uncanny ability to find the back of the net on set pieces.
But Ertz wasn’t always an international superstar. In fact,
only a couple of years ago she was playing a completely different position.
Nearly a year after she burst onto the scene as a 23-year-old center back for the 2015 national team, Ertz was benched, forcing her to make a decision — she could either sulk about her demotion or put in the hard work to mentally and physically overcome the obstacles in her way.
“As an athlete, you see adversity all the time and those are
the challenges that either make you or break you,” Ertz said. “For me, that was
through injuries, not playing, and being benched. What I learned from that
experience was that adversity can be your best friend if you allow it to test
your character and who you really want to be.”
Ertz didn’t just battle back to regain her spot on the team, she completely reinvented her game and became one of the best defensive midfielders in the sport today. That willingness to change her position and the grind she went through to achieve greatness is a testament to her reputation as a teammate and fan favorite.
“I always wanted to be a versatile player because I loved
the sport so much and thought each position could teach me something
different,” Ertz said. “I want to be the best teammate I can be and so, for me,
versatility means being reliable for my teammates. Whatever they ask of me, I
want to do.”
Ertz also knows that being a successful female athlete comes
with extra challenges and obstacles. She credits the generation of female
soccer stars who came before her and recognizes that they helped lay the
foundation for players like her to become national icons.
“As I got older, it was huge to watch the women who paved the way for me,” Ertz said. “Seeing those women push boundaries allowed me to dream and that’s the biggest thing I want to thank them for.”
Now that Ertz and her teammates are the face of a new era of
women’s soccer, she’s embracing the opportunity to continue the legacy of being
a role model for the next generation.
“I just want to let every young, aspiring athlete or person know that whatever your dream is, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t go for it,” Ertz said. “Any boundary can be a new boundary, and it’s important to know that we’re behind you and that you’re not alone.”
The U.S. women have already qualified for this summer’s biggest soccer event but they aren’t waiting to take on their global competitors. This year, the USWNT is hosting the inaugural SheBelieves Cup March 3-9. Top international contenders Germany, France, and England will also participate.
The women of the USWNT give an inspired performance every time they step onto the field. That’s why they want to inspire young girls to accomplish all of their goals, on and off the pitch. In addition to the SheBelieves Cup, U.S. Soccer will host a “Girls Fantasy Camp” in Nashville during the tournament for girls aged 13-15 in an effort to grow the sport.
The official roster for the cup includes five Eastbay cover athletes: Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Morgan Brian, Heather O’Reilly, and Alex Morgan. See the full roster below:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (9): Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign FC), Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
March 3: Germany vs. France, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. 5 pm ET
March 3: USA vs. England, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. 7:30 pm ET
March 6: USA vs. France, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn. 3 pm ET
March 6: Germany vs. England, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn. 5:30 pm ET
March 9: France vs. England, FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla. 5 pm ET
March 9: USA vs. Germany, FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla. 7:30 pm ET
The defending world champs started off the year with another victory. The U.S. women’s soccer team shut out the Republic of Ireland during a friendly over the weekend. The 5-0 victory was the first match of 2016, capping off the team’s nine-game victory tour after winning the World Final in July 2015.
In front of a record crowd in San Diego, forward Alex Morgan recorded her 100th career cap with the national team. Wearing the captain’s armband, she also treated fans in her home state to a first-half goal.
Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd continued her international rout with a hat trick, reminiscent of her 2015 World Final game.
Newcomer Mallory Pugh scored the final goal of the game in her first international cap. The 17-year-old forward’s promising start comes as the team says good bye to American stalwart Abby Wambach.
Speaking of good byes, Sydney Leroux says good bye for now. The U.S. forward won’t be heading to Brazil with the rest of her team because she announced yesterday that she is expecting her first child with husband and Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer.
The team heads to Texas in February for the 2016 CONCACAF women’s qualifying championship, so mark your calendars.