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2023 Women's World Cup

The Julie Ertz of today is the only one that matters for the USWNT

• Ertz returns to USWNT after 19 months away from competitive soccer, giving birth in August
• At her best, she’s a top player in the world. Should that be the expectation?
• Just like the USWNT at large, expectations must be set by what is, not what was

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Network

Julie Ertz at her peak is one of the best players in the world, but Julie Ertz at her best should not be the expectation for her return to the field in April. It could be the case, but it can’t be assumed.

Ertz was a shocking addition to the United States women’s national team’s April training camp roster announced on Tuesday. With the news comes hope for U.S. fans less than four months from the start of the 2023 World Cup. Ertz, more than any of the countless recent absences for the U.S., left a gaping void in the team that only she could fill.

The return of Ertz in the context of the United States’ general struggles in midfield against top teams will evoke hope, but one of sport’s greatest fallacies is expecting that what was before will be again. That is a paradox for the entire U.S. team at this World Cup. The program is in search of an unprecedented third straight World Cup title, and anything short of that will be a failure, but many of the players on the final roster will be playing in their first World Cup.

Ertz has not played a match since August 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics and she is currently without a professional team, although that will change soon according to a statement she released. U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said Ertz is negotiating with multiple teams. She is a free agent in the National Women’s Soccer League (and globally, to be clear).

In August, Ertz gave birth to her first child. For most of the past few months, all signs have pointed to Ertz being done with soccer. There had been no tangible updates about her return and, behind the scenes, the expectation was that she would not continue playing. By February, Andonovski remarked publicly that Ertz had not been playing or committed to a club team, saying “she’s someone that we’re probably not gonna be able to count on in the World Cup.”

Tuesday, however, brought news of her return, news that Ertz has been training with an MLS boys academy and a personal trainer. Andonovski went and watched her in person, he said.

“I don’t think I’m going to say anything new if I say that Julie Ertz, at her best, is one of the best players in the world,” Andonovski said on Tuesday. “We saw that in 2019, we saw that in 2015, and the time in between.”

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