Julie Ertz has always understood the value of being versatile. In the last few years representing the USA, the U.S. Women’s National Team defender has honed her craft on the back line, more specifically, in the middle of the defense as the tough-as nails-center back who will fight for every tackle and do her best to win every aerial ball.
As good as she’s been at center back, that isn’t the only position Ertz has played or excelled at in her career. Back during her years at Santa Clara University, Ertz played multiple positions, including many a shift in the center of midfield. This season in the NWSL with the Chicago Red Stars, Ertz has been playing primarily defensive midfielder.
She’s looked extremely comfortable, in part because she’s played there before, in college, for the youth National Teams, and even a bit for the senior WNT. But also in part because the qualities needed to play both positions are quite similar.
“There are definitely a lot of similarities between playing as a center back and as a defensive midfielder,” Ertz said. “They’re both more defensive-minded positions. I’ve learned both and I’ve always appreciated the value of being a versatile player. I think my mindset every year is that I want to get better. Playing different positions is definitely challenging, but it’s also been extremely fun.”
Julie Ertz has scored nine goals with the WNT, the most goals scored by an active defender.
While she’s spent most of her professional career as a center back, and scored eight of her nine U.S. WNT goals from that position, all off set plays, this past season with the Red Stars she has gotten forward more and has bagged four goals with three assists, career-highs for her in the league.
Since her familiarity with the position goes back years, Ertz felt confident when U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis gave her the start as a defensive midfield against Japan in the Tournament of Nations. In fact, it was Ertz who made a goal-saving goal line clearance in that game, showing that no matter where she is on the field, she will always be a gritty, do-whatever-it-takes kind of player.
“In both positions, you’re expected to win those tackles and don’t have much chance to miss,” said Ertz. “I like to win headers and be aggressive. Those are fun things for me to do. As a defensive mid, it is a lot more running and I’ve learned that you have to increase your speed of play in the center at this level, but I enjoy it.”
Always willing to do what it takes to help the team, Ertz just wants to contribute on the field, and her time with the USA – going on five years now – has also helped her become more confident in her game.
“As the years have come and I’ve gotten more caps, the experience has come as well, and that helps,” she said. “Being in training consistently has helped me to learn a lot and that’s how you gain another level of confidence and understanding of the game.”
The U.S. WNT resumes its 2017 schedule on Friday, Sept. 15 (8 p.m. MT; ESPN2) when it takes on New Zealand at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado; and again on Sept. 19 (7:30 p.m. ET; FS1) when it plays the second of the two-game series at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.