United States
Julie Ertz makes surprise comeback on latest USWNT roster
United States

Julie Ertz makes surprise comeback on latest USWNT roster

Updated Mar. 28, 2023 3:37 p.m. ET

It's safe to say time was on Julie Ertz's side.

That's because the two-time World Cup champion and new mom, who hasn't played for the U.S. women's national team since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, is back.

On Tuesday, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski announced his last 26-player training camp roster before naming the final World Cup roster – and Ertz is on it. The USWNT will face the Republic of Ireland on April 8 at Q2 Stadium in Austin and again on April 11 at CITYPARK in St. Louis.

"I don’t think I’m going to say anything new when I say that Julie Ertz at her best is one of the best players in the world," Andonovoski said Tuesday.


The news about Ertz comes as a pleasant surprise. For the last 19 months or so, it seemed like the squad would have to prepare for a summer without Ertz, who was arguably the team's most valuable and important player during their 2019 World Cup. As recently as Feb. 1, when Andonovski announced his roster for the SheBelieves Cup, a return seemed unlikely.

"Another person that hasn't been in camp for a while, Julie Ertz, is someone that, obviously we see she hasn't committed to a [NWSL team] so far," Andonovski said then. "And time is running out pretty much for her, and she's someone that we're probably not going to be able to count on in the World Cup."

Ertz, 30, gave birth to a baby boy in August and since then has given zero hints of a possible comeback on social media or elsewhere. She has been a NWSL free agent and is listed as "unattached" on this roster, but is expected to join a club soon. Andonovski said Ertz is currently negotiating with teams and that news will come out soon.

He’s also been in "constant communication" with Ertz for the past few months, noting that she’s been training with an MLS Academy boys team, a personal high performance coach and a technical coach. Once Ertz was cleared by her doctor, U.S. Soccer’s medical staff was able to give her a thumbs up, and she was called into this April camp.

"She was up to the level that a lot of professional players were training at and sometimes, even harder," said Andonovski, who visited Ertz and saw for himself that she was fit and in form.

"Her mindset is superb," Andonovski added later. "She’s committed to the game, she's committed to this team, and when I say committed, I mean fully committed in every aspect of it. She’s ready physically, she’s ready mentally, she's excited to be back in the environment and most importantly, she feels confident that she can help this team win another title. And for me, that’s what matters most."

Ertz, of course, has not officially made the final World Cup roster yet. Nobody has. But the fact that she’s back in form gives the USWNT a huge boost as her absence created a gaping hole

Without Ertz, the midfield has been exposed – most recently in last year’s European friendlies against England, Spain and Germany – and Andonovski has racked his brain trying to think of creative ways to patch it up without her. He’s been committed to Andi Sullivan, and experimented with Taylor Kornieck and Krisitie Mewis in that position. He’s tinkered with other formations that include Ashley Sanchez and sometimes dropped two players back to play a role that Ertz can do herself. All aforementioned players are also on the April roster, though it should be noted that World Cup rosters are made up of 23 players, not 26.

So what does the return of a fully fit Ertz mean for the midfield? Is she guaranteed her starting spot back? 

"I have to say that we’ve been very pleased with Andi Sullivan and her progression," Andonovski said. "Julie coming in doesn’t mean that everyone moves to the side and Julie gets that spot. She needs to come in and prove herself.

"We are going to be a little bit patient – as patient as we can afford to be at this moment – to give her a chance to get back and acclimate herself into the environment. But I want to make sure that everyone understands that we are happy with the team that we have. I mean, we saw the progress of Andi in that position and her involvement in the role and other players that are playing around her, so it will be a battle but that’s what this team is all about. It’s about competition, day in and day out."

Andonovski expects Ertz to play in the upcoming matches against Ireland, but iterated that like anyone else, she is going to have to earn minutes. That goes for other players returning to camp for the first time in awhile, like defenders Kelley O’Hara (hip), Tierna Davidson (ACL) and Casey Krueger (gave birth last July), and forward Sophia Smith (foot). 

With so many talented players back and ready to go, how will Andonovski manage the dynamic between them and others who have been grinding for the last 12-18 months in hopes of making the team?

"If somebody’s 80% or 90% is still better than somebody else’s best, then too bad," Andonovski said.

"Anyone that will help us win a World Cup will be considered."

So what does that mean for players like Catarina Macario (ACL), Christen Press (ACL) and Tobin Heath (knee), who have been recovering from injuries and were not called up? Andonovski believes Macario is "a little bit ahead" of Press and Heath and thinks she will be back on the field for Lyon next month. Megan Rapinoe is also not on the roster, as she is nursing a lower leg injury and didn’t play in the OL Reign season opener over the weekend.

"It doesn’t mean that if you are on this roster right now that you will be on the World Cup roster and at the same time, it doesn’t mean that if you’re not on the roster right now that you’re not going to have a chance to get a roster spot," Andonovski said.

"Is it going to be a little bit harder? Yes, but there is a chance."

The World Cup runs from July 20 through Aug. 20 and games will be played in 10 stadiums across nine cities in Australia and New Zealand. 

The USWNT opens Group E play against Vietnam on July 22 at Eden Park in Auckland, faces the Netherlands on July 27 at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, and takes on Portugal on Aug. 1 back in Auckland.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current; 10), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 13), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 89) 

DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 23/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 48/1), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage; 27/0), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 130/24), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 14/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 28/0), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars; 37/0), Kelley O'Hara (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 156/3), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 214/0), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign; 73/1) 

MIDFIELDERS (7): Julie Ertz (Unattached; 116/20), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 126/26), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 12/2), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 87/24), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 50/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 22/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 42/3) 

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 17/5), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 204/121), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 15/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 27/12), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars; 87/32), Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 52/15)

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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