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Julie Ertz on USWNT career: ‘I’ve enjoyed every part of this journey’

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Julie Ertz played her final match with the U.S. women’s national team Thursday night, turning the page on a prolific career.

After the 3-0 win against South Africa, the 31-year-old midfielder shared an emotional moment with her teammates and fans, offering some words of wisdom for those who will follow in her footsteps.

“Obviously this is a monumental game for me. I’m beyond grateful to represent this crest for as long as I have,” Ertz said. “To any girl out there who dreams to be here, it’s worth it. Every part of it.

“I’ve enjoyed every part of this journey that I’ve have, and you guys are a big part of that. … I love this sport so much and I’m grateful to be part of the U.S. Soccer family.”

What does Ertz mean to the USWNT? Lynn Williams summed it up at halftime.

“She directs people every second, every moment on the field,” Williams told TNT. “She just shows by her work rate and her dedication to the game. We joke about it in the camp, but she’s always holding an iPad and always studying, always learning.

“Even this morning she was doing it and we were like, ‘Julie, you’re retiring. It doesn’t matter anymore.’ But just her preparation, her dedication, and her willingness to put everything on the line for us, it’s incredible.”

On top of her 123 international appearances, Ertz finishes with 20 goals and two World Cup titles. Of the 106 games that Ertz started in her career, the USWNT lost just 2.8% of them — a grand total of three matches. It’s the lowest losing percentage of any player with 100 or more starts in team history.

And on Thursday, the team sent her out the right way — with a resounding victory.

“Really excited that we scored kind of right before [I was subbed]. It just felt like a really good ending to say bye,” Ertz told TNT after the match. “I’ve always known I loved the sport, and in that moment, the 35 minutes left that I was blessed to have, I just could just feel it. I could feel how much I loved it. I’m so grateful.”

While her teammates did everything they could to get Ertz one last goal, it wasn’t in the cards for the midfielder. But that’s OK.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the wins,” Ertz said. “Of course, I would’ve loved to score. Who wouldn’t? But at the end of the day, it was just so fun to be out there, play so free and play one last time.”