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Sources: Julie Ertz signs with Angel City FC

After her much-anticipated USWNT return ahead of the World Cup, Ertz now has a club. Her first game could be next Sunday against San Diego.

Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

United States women’s national team midfielder Julie Ertz has signed with Angel City FC, multiple sources tell The Equalizer. The Los Angeles-based National Women’s Soccer League club is expected to announce the signing of Ertz in the coming days.

Angel City beat out multiple NWSL clubs to sign Ertz, who returned to competitive play this month for the first time in 19 months by appearing off the bench in a pair of U.S. friendly matches against Ireland.

Ertz last played a competitive match in the NWSL on May 16, 2021, when she played 28 minutes for the Chicago Red Stars before suffering a sprained MCL. She returned to play for the U.S. in the Olympics that summer but did not play again for club or country that year. Chicago traded her rights to Angel City late that year, but Ertz never signed with the team nor played anywhere in 2022. She became a free agent at the end of the 2022 season during the league’s first free-agency period. She gave birth to her first child in August.

Free agency meant that Ertz had the option to sign with any team for her comeback, which comes just three months before the 2023 World Cup.

Ertz could make her debut for Angel City at home on Sunday against developing rival San Diego Wave FC, one of the teams that also held talks with the defensive midfielder, according to multiple sources. Including Wednesday’s NWSL Challenge Cup opener against OL Reign, Angel City will play 13 more games prior to the June 26 release of all international players in the NWSL for the World Cup.

U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski is likely to name his World Cup roster at some point in June. Andonovski said over the past few weeks, while answering myriad questions about Ertz’s return, that the 31-year-old defensive midfielder needs regular minutes in a club environment to be ready and selected for the World Cup.

At her peak, Ertz is among the best players in the world — a point Andonovski reiterated several times recently. The U.S. struggled to replace Ertz, a two-time Word Cup-winner, during her absence from the team.

“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 recently. “We saw that in 2019, we saw that in 2015, and the time in between.”

What it means for Ertz

Simply put, Ertz needs games. She made appearances off the bench for the U.S. in each of the April friendlies against Ireland, but she needs to prove she is in the form needed not only to go to the World Cup, but potentially be a starter.

Andonovski spoke recently about how he will juggle so many players returning from injuries and absences as he selects his World Cup roster. His answer was about players, plural, but it was framed around the context of Ertz’s return and it certainly suggests she will be on the plane to New Zealand.

“There’s so many dynamics, and when we’re making these decisions, everything will be taken into consideration,” Andonovski said. “What is someone’s best and what is someone’s 80% or 90%? If somebody’s 80 or 90% is still better than somebody else’s best, then too bad. Anyone that will help us win the World Cup will be taken to the World Cup.”

There is a personal element to this as well for Ertz. Angel City and San Diego were always the two most likely destinations for Ertz, whose home base is in greater Phoenix, Arizona, where her husband, Zach, plays for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. LAX to PHX is an easy, 90-minute flight with plenty of daily options for Ertz to get home and figure out the personal balance as a new mom with a larger family.

What it means for Angel City

The Los Angeles club gets immediate help in midfield, an area of need. Savannah McCaskill has developed into a strong attacking midfielder, and Dani Weatherholt serves as the glue of the midfield. Angel City lacks bite at defensive midfield, however, as the first half of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Racing Louisville revealed. Angel City head coach Freya Coombe has searched for different solutions in the role, from Clarisse Le Bihan on Saturday to the ongoing experiment of Madison Hammond (previously a center back) in the No. 6 role at times. Ertz brings immediate tenacity to Angel City’s midfield.

The bigger questions revolve around the ‘how.’ How can Angel City afford Ertz, a sought-after free agent. Angel City spent $450,000 in allocation money just on the trades executed to acquire the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft. That doesn’t even account for the amount of allocation money tied up in player salaries, figures which are not publicly released. Angel City recently acquired $70,000 in allocation from Orlando Pride.

Ertz’s arrival to Angel City begs further questions about how the club could also afford French midfielder Amandine Henry, who has been linked to a summer move to Los Angeles. Ertz is believed to be more focused on the opportunity than the salary, given the proximity to the World Cup. Zach Ertz signed a $31 million contract last year.

Bella Munson and Taylor Vincent contributed to this report.

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