Julie Ertz opened up on Wednesday about her decision to retire, saying that it’s not because she can’t still play the game.
Instead, it’s about making the most of the time she has with her family and son Madden, who was born last year. She announced her retirement last month and will play in her final match for the U.S. women’s national team on Thursday, a friendly against South Africa in Cincinnati.
“This sport takes sacrifice,” Ertz said. “And I think time with my family is just irreplaceable, especially with where Madden is and his age.”
Ertz had suited up for Angel City FC in the NWSL before announcing her retirement. Interim head coach Becki Tweed still thinks that the decision to walk away from the sport was “incredibly hard” for Ertz.
“I know that she’s not crazily at peace with it,” Tweed said. “But again, she’s an all-in person and she has soccer, she has family, she has a child. I think we all respect that decision, and we’re really grateful and thankful for her recovery and what she’s done for the sport.”
The 31-year-old midfielder is retiring near the top of her game, but she said Wednesday that she doesn’t regret being able to choose when she gets to step away.
“Your whole career as an athlete, you’re like, ‘I just don’t want to regret anything,’” Ertz said. “And I think you just want to get to a point to be able to choose myself when I could step away.
“I do feel like I can step away and be like, ‘It’s not because momma can’t play — momma can play. She has just adapted [her] priorities.’ I think that just comes with age.”
The announcement that she would get to play one final USWNT game was a surprise, but a welcome one for Ertz.
“I’m so grateful to have this last game to just close the chapter and say bye,” said the two-time World Cup champion. “I feel like if I retired five years ago, if I retired in 10 years, the day that you choose [to leave] the sport that you know your whole life, it’s just a sad day.”