all scores

Julie Ertz at center-back? USWNT ‘exploring’ options without Sauerbrunn

Julie Ertz is a mainstay in the USWNT midfield, but she could take up a new (old) role at the 2023 World Cup. (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Julie Ertz is a mainstay in the midfield for the U.S. women’s national team. But in the absence of veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, Ertz could take up a new (old) position for the 2023 World Cup.

While the 31-year-old has made her home in the midfield, she has played center-back for the USWNT before, albeit not in the last four years. And she could do so again if called upon, head coach Vlatko Andonovski said.

In the absence of Sauerbrunn, who will miss the World Cup with injury, the USWNT “will be exploring that option,” he told reporters Wednesday after announcing the 23-player roster.

“We’re all gutted for Becky,” Andonovksi said. “There’s no question we are going to miss Becky. We’re going to miss her on the field and off the field…

“But now that’s part of sports and we understand that things like this will happen. We’re very confident in the team that we have. And we’re very confident in the abilities of the players that we have on our team, that we’ll be able to overcome the deficiency that may occur with Becky’s absence.”

One of the players that holds those abilities is Ertz. In 2015, she played in the World Cup as a center-back, a position she also played at the U-20 level before making the transition to midfield in 2017.

“I really enjoy it,” Ertz told The Equalizer in 2017. “It’s nothing too new, in the sense that I’ve played midfield in college most of my time there. It’s definitely been a new challenge, it’s been fun and exciting. A little bit more opportunity, obviously to get closer to the goal. I’ve had a fun time, and I’m still learning.”

What started as a need for her then-NWSL club the Chicago Red Stars has blossomed into Ertz serving as the only true No. 6 for the USWNT over the last few years, as further proven by the team’s inability to fill the whole she left when injured.

But with Crystal Dunn playing well in the midfield for the Portland Thorns, and Ertz’s abilities to play multiple positions (similar to Dunn), could it make sense to make a swap?

“It is definitely something that is on our mind,” Andonovski said of putting Ertz at center-back. “And we will be exploring that option.”

Dunn, meanwhile, told USWNT legend Julie Foudy that there “haven’t been any conversations” about switching her to the midfield. Still, she’s received encouragement from Andonovski regarding her club play.

“The reality is I’m ready for my new role when I take the field for the national team,” she said.