Julie Ertz played just one NWSL match in May, but Angel City coach Freya Coombe isn’t worried about the midfielder’s readiness for the 2023 World Cup.
The 31-year-old won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles with the U.S. women’s national team, and she is expected to help the USWNT make a push for another this summer in Australia and New Zealand.
“She will get there,” Coombe told the Los Angeles Times when asked about Ertz’s fitness for the World Cup. “There’s one thing that I’ve learned about [in] my short time working with her is just her mentality. I think her mentality is such that she will absolutely get there.”
After nearly two years away from competition due to a knee injury and then a pregnancy, Ertz made her return in April, participating in the USWNT camp and signing with Angel City.
She already has won two World Cup titles, an Olympic medal and two U.S. player of the year awards, but she still has plenty of reason to play. And the birth of her son Madden last August brought a new perspective to her game.
“Before I could be selfish with my career. Now it’s almost the opposite,” Ertz said. “Having to step back in that questioning, ‘Oh, will I be able to play again?’ And then you learn that the sport has given you so much. That’s kind of a cool drive to have this moment shared with Madden and my family. I love it differently than I did before.”
As she readied for her return, she listened to her body, she told the Los Angeles Times.
“I just kind of took the time to make sure my body was back properly,” she said. “To make sure that I could play and perform.”
Still, her participation in the USWNT’s April camp came as something of a surprise. After all, coach Vlatko Andonovski had said in February that the team was “probably not going to be able to count on [her] in the World Cup.”
In two April friendlies against Ireland, Ertz looked close to form. Since then, she has played in three NWSL matches for Angel City, two in April and one in May. Between these five matches, she has played 313 minutes since her return, though she has missed Angel City’s last two games with a left thigh injury.
Already, Ertz has surprised many on her journey back to the pitch – and Coombe believes the midfielder will continue to surprise as the summer continues.
“I was surprised at the level that she came in at — in a good way,” Coombe said. “I do think that there’s another level for her to go in terms of her match fitness and just being to be up to speed with the games. There’s more room for her to go and then getting to that fifth gear.”