On Tuesday, Dec. 5, U.S. Soccer announced the five nominees for 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. This year's nominees include midfielders Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis; and forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. Today we begin “Making the Case” for each of the candidates, starting with WNT midfielder, Julie Ertz.
So far in her international career, Ertz has been best known for her defensive presence and physical play in the center of the back line. In 2017, that Ertz was still present (nowhere more clearly than her goal-line save against Japan on Aug. 3), but the brilliance of her campaign came in her ability to move seamlessly into a defensive midfield role for the WNT.
Of course, Ertz had plenty of experience playing there. She played the entirety of her club season for the Red Stars at defensive midfield, as well as logging many a shift in that position for the Youth National Teams and in college, but this year she embraced the change and made a huge impact on both sides of the ball. Ertz played there for the final eight games of the year (beginning with a substitute appearance against Brazil on July 30), and simply put, she owned the new role.
Ertz also made an impact in goal scoring in 2017, finding the back of the net six times– a career best for a calendar year and second best on the team behind Alex Morgan – to up her career total to 14 international goals.
Her first goal this year was perhaps the most dramatic – an 89th-minute game-winning score in a wild 4-3 WNT comeback win against Brazil. Against New Zealand on Sept. 15 she scored a brace – her second career multi-goal game – and in a pair of friendlies against Korea Republic in October she scored two goals in two games with the one on Oct. 19 earning our pick for WNT Goal of the Year. She closed out the year with another score against Canada to finish 2017 with six goals in the final seven games.
Ertz played in 22 of the Chicago Red Stars 24 regular season matches, as well as going the distance in the playoff semifinal, while scoring four goals with three assists. She played all but 48 minutes of the regular season and was named to the NWSL Second XI.