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USWNT coach praises Julie Ertz at center-back: ‘What we needed’

Julie Ertz solidified the USWNT's backline against the Netherlands. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The Netherlands struck first against the U.S. women’s national team on Thursday, when Jill Roord scored in the 17th minute.

From there, however, the USWNT’s defense tightened up. The Dutch didn’t register another shot on goal the rest of the game, and after the 1-1 draw in the World Cup group-stage game, coach Vlatko Andonovski credited Julie Ertz for solidifying the backline.

“It was what we needed,” Andonovski said of Ertz’s effort. “We’re happy with Julie’s performance, we’re happy with our backline.”

The coach has so far moved Ertz to center-back for this World Cup, a position she hasn’t played regularly since transitioning to defensive midfield in 2017. Ertz was named U.S. Soccer Player of the Year in 2017 and again in 2019.

After the Netherlands’ game, Andonovski was asked if Ertz moving back to her old position was due to “where she is at at this point in her career.”

“It has nothing to do with where she is in her career,” Andonovski said. “I feel comfortable with Julie playing at the nine, too, or seven or 11. She’ll give you her best, and she’ll play 90 minutes and she’ll be good.”

The veteran, for her part, has taken the shift in her role in stride. Ertz — alongside defenders Emily Fox, Naomi Girma and Crystal Dunn — shut out the Dutch in the second half, and then gave Lindsey Horan a brief pep talk before Horan’s game-tying goal in the 62nd minute.

“I think, obviously, coming back from being a goal down is huge, especially in this tournament,” Ertz told FOX Sports after the game. “That’s what this tournament is about. You roll up your sleeves, you find your grit, and then you find your goals.”