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UNDRAFTED

Julie Ertz Bids Farewell to Storied Career: A Final Salute to a USWNT Legend

Although Ertz formally announced her retirement on August 31, the USWNT recently confirmed that she would lace up her boots for one last hurrah in a friendly match against South Africa.

Julie Ertz, a stalwart of the United States women's national soccer team, has officially bid farewell to her illustrious career after over a decade of dedicated service. Ertz leaves behind a legacy adorned with two FIFA World Cup triumphs, a pair of CONCACAF titles, an Olympic bronze medal, and an indelible imprint as one of the nation's most indispensable players.


Although Ertz formally announced her retirement on August 31, the USWNT recently confirmed that she would lace up her boots for one last hurrah in a friendly match against South Africa. This final showdown served as a fitting stage to pay tribute to the remarkably versatile midfielder who consistently answered the call to fill various positions for the team.


The TQL Stadium in Cincinnati reverberated with thunderous applause as Ertz received a jersey commemorating her impressive 123 international caps. In attendance were Ertz's parents and sister, offering their support on this emotional occasion. Regrettably, her husband, Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals' tight end, couldn't make it to the game due to NFL commitments, but he expressed his sentiments via the Cardinals' official channels.


Donning the captain's armband for the match, Ertz openly expressed her dream of finding the back of the net, although she emphasized that securing a victory held greater importance. The USWNT left no stone unturned in their quest to grant her this wish, repeatedly seeking her presence during corner and free kicks. Ertz managed to get her head on a couple of opportunities but was thwarted by the tenacity of South Africa's goalkeeper, Kaylin Swart.


The American squad swiftly took control of the match with Lynn Williams and Trinity Rodman netting back-to-back goals in the 32nd and 34th minutes, respectively. This marked the cue for Ertz's curtain call, as she was substituted out for Andi Sullivan in the 36th minute. Her departure triggered an emotional exchange of hugs with every teammate, all of which was accompanied by a rousing standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. The USWNT ultimately emerged victorious, clinching the game 3-0.


Ertz couldn't hold back tears while addressing the fervent audience post-match. Her substitution signaled a poignant moment as the USWNT moves further away from the core group that secured back-to-back World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019. With Carli Lloyd already retired and the likes of Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe scheduled for their final outings, the team's transformation is well underway. Additionally, veterans such as Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O'Hara, Crystal Dunn, and Alyssa Naeher have all crossed the 30-year-old milestone, accentuating the transition to a new era.


Ertz's swansong tournament, the 2023 Women's World Cup, witnessed an unexpected early exit for the USWNT in the knockout stage, prompting numerous questions about the team's future prospects.


Notably, Ertz became a mother to her son, Madden, in August 2022 and remarkably returned to the field just 10 months later to bolster her squad. During the campaign in Australia and New Zealand, she displayed her adaptability yet again by shifting to central defense due to an injury to Sauerbrunn.


Ertz's game continually evolved to meet the evolving needs of the USWNT. At her zenith, she played a pivotal role in orchestrating possession and foiling opposing attacks before they threatened the backline. Finding a successor to fill her formidable shoes will undoubtedly be a daunting task as the team embarks on the search for a new head coach and sets its sights on the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Jon Sepchinski

@jsepchinskiphotography

September 22, 2023 at 4:00:00 PM

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