There was a familiar but surprising name included on the latest United States roster announced Tuesday morning: Julie Ertz.
Ertz has not been seen on a soccer field since she fought her way back from a knee injury to represent the United States at the Olympics in the summer of 2021. She was injured playing for the Chicago Red Stars on May 16 of that year and did not return to the team after the Olympics. The Red Stars traded Ertz and Sarah Gorden to Angel City FC, but Ertz never reported and announced in April that she was pregnant. She gave birth to her son, Madden, last year on August 11.
Friendlies against Ireland next month in Austin and St Louis will mark the final matches for the United States before head coach Vlatko Andonovski announces the roster for this summer’s World Cup. Other returning players on the 26-player roster are defenders Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger, and forward Sophia Smith. Krueger had to leave her club match over the weekend after a head-to-head collision. From the 26, head coach Vlatko Andonovski will name 23 to dress for each match.
“It’s exciting to get the group back together and we’re getting closer to how we want to look this summer,” Andonovski said. “The team is gelling and getting these players back in camp, all who know the environment very well, is just going to make it more competitive and turn the intensity up a notch. I know there is a lot of pressure on the players as the competition for World Cup spots increases, but that’s not something we shy away from. We talk about it, and we embrace it, as we all know these players make each other better.”
Ertz, who will turn 31 ahead of the matches, is guaranteed a chance to be called in and earn a spot on the team in the long term, having been under contract and having a baby. This appears to be more than a token call-up though, with Ertz believed to have at least an outside shot at snagging a seat on the plane to New Zealand this summer.
The national team has not called in unaffiliated players since precedent was set in 2018 when Jill Ellis refused to call in Christen Press who was holding out following a trade to the Houston Dash. Ertz’s NWSL rights remain with Angel City.
Ertz was the No. 3 overall pick (as Julie Johnston) by the Red Stars in 2014 and was named Rookie of the Year. Through 2021 she made 95 regular season appearances for the Red Stars and six more in the playoffs plus eight Challenge Cup matches. Ertz started for the Red Stars in the 2019 NWSL Championship and 2020 Challenge Cup final.
She burst onto the scene with the national team ahead of the 2015 World Cup when an injury to Christie Rampone thrust her into the starting lineup where she remained, helping the U.S. post five consecutive shutouts on the way to the title. By 2019, Ertz was in the midfield and again helped the U.S. lift the trophy. She has been capped 116 times by the United States and has scored 20 goals.