Julie Ertz made a twenty four minute cameo on Saturday as she returned to the USWNT for the first time in two years. Her return made an immediate impact on the run of play vs a physical Irish squad.
There was rust, her individual play still had room to improve but her presence on the pitch saw the midfield pushing up into the attack for the first time all match.
A game that was harsh, physical, and a bit disjointed at times, burst to life once Ertz punctuated her brand of soccer on the match. Ertz even picked up a customary yellow card just a few minutes after making her appearance.
USWNT needed this performance.
A performance that wasn’t pretty, that wasn’t ideal, but one that showed this team’s ability to adapt under ever changing circumstances.
It’s almost comical how free flowing the attack looked compared to the slower build up of the first sixty minutes.
What is it about Ertz in particular that allows the team to play more freely?
For one, her defensive stability allows Horan to bound forward without having to be too cautious about her positioning.
As a veteran who’s, very much, been there and done that; Ertz’s confidence at the position was immediately noticeable.
“She may have gotten a little overzealous getting forward but it’s ok, we want her to have that freedom and feel comfortable. We’ll address it and she could have been better but we were so happy to see her feel comfortable”
Vlatko would state after the match, continuing ;
“We saw when she came in, automatically, the pace of the game picked up a bit.”
Ultimately, the 2nd USA goal comes from Ertz finding Horan with her back towards goal inside the Ireland box before Horan is pulled down and converts the ensuing penalty.
With just one final dress rehearsal before this summer’s World Cup, all that the coaching staff is looking for is progress. Is a player making a difference on the way the team is playing? Is a player fitting in well with their surroundings? Is a player making more of an impact than their closest comparable?