Her swan song proved a somewhat cathartic moment after World Cup disaster.
On the occasion of her final game in a U.S. women's national team jersey, Julie Ertz had kept her emotions in check. Mostly. But a postgame montage of her career and a speech to the crowd proved to be too much. The tears flowed, showing the passion that defined Ertz's career.
"To every girl out there who dreams to be here, it's worth it," she said as she addressed the crowd at Cincinnati's TQL Stadium after the game. "Every part of it."
The U.S. prevailed over South Africa 3-0 on Thursday, thanks to a 10-minute stretch in the first half that saw Lynn Williams score a pair of goals and Trinity Rodman add another. The win allows the team to turn the page after a hugely disappointing 2023 Women's World Cup that saw the earliest U.S. exit from a World Cup in the history of the program.
That recovery does of course still require many more pages to be turned, including the hiring of a new manager.
Ertz's international finale added a feel-good element to the occasion, though. Even as the U.S. cruised to victory, this match was all about celebrating one of the finest defensive players to ever suit up for the USWNT.
Ertz will finish with 123 international appearances, 20 goals and a pair of World Cup titles. And for one night at least, it was time to celebrate a USWNT legend. Ertz has earned every plaudit and deserves the contentment that retirement and family life will hopefully bring.