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Julie Ertz played her last USWNT match on an emotional night in Cincinnati. In her decade-long career on the team, the two-time U.S. Soccer player of the year had 122 caps and 20 goals for the USWNT. She rightly earned a standing ovation when she exited the pitch.

The 31-year-old two-time World Cup Champion had announced her retirement after the American team’s untimely loss at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Ertz was a local favorite, long before her rise to the national spotlight. As Santa Clara Bronco midfielder Julie Johnston, she came out to help coach our LG United 2001 Girls premier team.

She’s been a fixture on the national team since getting called up during her senior year at Santa Clara University. Ever since, she’s been one of the most invaluable members of the US team, as both a player and a leader on the field.

Having distinguished herself through tough-as-nails play as both a defensive midfielder and later a center-back, Ertz is also known for her mental toughness and ability to overcome adversity.

In the semifinal of her first World Cup in 2015, Ertz gave up a penalty in the 59th minute on a questionable call that earned her a yellow card, every defender’s nightmare. Visibly distraught, her teammates rallied around her. Carli Lloyd notes, “I remember telling her, ‘No time for tears. We’ve got a game to play.’”

Ertz was able to shake it off, and not only did she pull it together to help her team defeat Germany, but she contributed to the team’s ultimate victory in the final against Japan. She went on to be nominated for Player of the Tournament and named in the All-Star Team of the Tournament.

Julie Ertz is still in peak form. As ESPN noted, “Her play at the 2023 World Cup – leading a back line that conceded just once in the entire tournament – was so stellar that she could have easily carried on to the Olympics.”

But her decision to retire involved other considerations besides soccer. The last few years have brought many changes, notably, motherhood. Ertz worked her way back to the top squad just a year after giving birth to her son, Madden. “I feel like this year I aged in dog years,” she told Sports Illustrated with a laugh.

If that’s how she felt, no one else could tell. She is going out on top, on her own terms, noting that time with her young son cannot be replaced. “I do feel like I can step away and be like it’s not because Mama can’t play; Mama can play,” said Ertz.

After an outstanding career, on her last night in a USWNT jersey, Ertz let the tears flow.

“I gave everything I had to the sport that I love,” she said. “With that, I can walk away with no regrets because while I gave soccer every ounce of myself, soccer gave me even more, and for that, I’ll always be thankful.”

Julie Ertz on the field at her final USWNT game, showing the back of her #8 jerseys while she looks to the stands.

Photo credit: Jamie Smed from Cincinnati, Ohio, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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