Jun 20, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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NextImg:Julie Ertz joined by former Red Stars teammates in return to USWNT competition

There was a switch that prompted former Red Stars captain Julie Ertz to return to the pitch, and it was flipped after a conversation with her husband, Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz.

She can’t recall the specific date, but the feeling was one she described in detail during a media call earlier this week.

“We talked about everything,” Ertz said. “Having a baby. The process of having a baby. Life and wanting to play but thinking how does it work logistically and making sure my family is there. It’s all of that. For anyone who has gone through the process of having a baby and going back to work, it’s challenging and extremely emotional.” 

Ertz, a midfielder, is back with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the first time since earning a bronze medal at the 2021 Olympics and the birth of her son in 2022. Her last time playing in the NWSL was in the Red Stars’ 2021 season opener, in which she suffered a sprained MCL. 

The conversation was emotional and raw given the fact that both Ertz and her husband are not as close to the beginning of their careers as they once were. But that acknowledgment also allowed for honesty. 

Ertz said she has been in communication with coach Vlatko Andonovski during her time away from the national team leading up to this World Cup push. The two have had detailed conversations about strategy and tactical approaches. These allowed Ertz to be a student of the game in a different way than actually being in camp. 

She didn’t necessarily anticipate making her return ahead of the World Cup. Instead, her approach was one of grace and gratitude, allowing herself time to be fully prepared when she did make her return. 

“I don’t want to come back and be the player I was,” Ertz said. “I want to be better.” 

Ertz, who was selected by the Red Stars with the third overall pick in the 2014 NWSL Draft, was traded to Angel City FC ahead of the 2022 season. She became a free agent this offseason and has been in discussions with multiple teams. 

“Finalizing them soon,” Ertz said. “Trying to stay focused on the games coming up but also knowing that I need a club team. Will hopefully have an answer for you soon.” 

Considering the trade, the chance of a return to the Red Stars was slim, and the team confirmed it is not in contention to sign her. In seven seasons with the Red Stars, Ertz started in 93 of her 95 matches, scoring six goals and amassing 8,306 minutes. 

Ertz is joined by four former Red Stars teammates — Alyssa Naeher, Casey Krueger, Tierna Davidson and Mallory Swanson — on the USWNT roster for the two friendlies against the Republic of Ireland. The matches Saturday and Tuesday will be the team’s last before the final roster is announced for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. 

Naeher and Swanson are both joining the USWNT for the third time this year and in February, both helped lead the team to its fourth consecutive SheBelieves Cup title and sixth overall. This is Davidson’s second call-up of the year and Krueger’s first since earning a bronze medal with the team at the 2021 Olympics. 

The Red Stars opened the season with two losses, on the road to the San Diego Wave and in their home opener to the Houston Dash. Coming up is the team’s first match against former Red Stars stalwarts Vanessa DiBernardo and Morgan Gautrat and their new club, the Kansas City Current, next Saturday.