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Julie Ertz back with USWNT, World Cup berth possible

Photo: Val Nova Photography

There was a familiar but surprising name included on the latest United States women’s national team 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. She is now a free agent.

In a statement through a U.S. Soccer spokesperson, Ertz said:

“It’s very exciting to be back with the team again and I’m grateful to have this opportunity. I have to work out details in regards to my club situation, but I am very thankful to [her husband] Zach, my family, and U.S. Soccer for the amazing support they have provided to get me back to this point. I’ve been training hard, excited to see where I’m at physically and getting better each day. I am going into this camp the same way I always have, to compete with the best women in the world.”

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 is a free agent.

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.

Krueger, O’Hara, Smith return to the roster

Another mom is back in the fold with the U.S. women’s national team, too. Casey Krueger — who left Saturday’s opener for the Chicago Red Stars early in the first half as a concussion substitute — has been named to the April roster.

Krueger’s call up is her first since the October 2021 camp. She, like Ertz, also gave birth to a son last year, with her son born in July 2022.

Also returning to the U.S. roster after injuries are Kelley O’Hara and last year’s NWSL MVP Sophia Smith. Smith scored in Portland’s opening NWSL weekend victory over the Orlando Pride. O’Hara started in Gotham’s win over Angel City FC in Week 1. O’Hara has not been on a U.S. roster since last summer.

Tierna Davidson, who recovered from a torn ACL and started for Chicago last weekend, is also on the 26-player roster. However, Davidson was with the U.S. players during the SheBelieves Cup as a training player, but not on the official roster. She has not played a U.S. national team match since the 2022 SheBelieves Cup.

The full roster is listed below.

USWNT Roster | April Camp vs. Ireland

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), TaylorKornieck(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)

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