Julie Ertz donned the captain’s armband as she led the United States to a comfortable 3-0 friendly win over South Africa in her final game for the national team.
Before Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, Ertz was honored by US Soccer and presented with a commemorative jersey with the No.
The Americans dominated the opening half-hour and finally broke through when Lynn Williams headed the ball over the line following a corner kick before Trinity Rodman struck another 60 seconds later with a powerful lightning counter in the US
Minutes later, Ertz’s career ended when he handed the armband to Lindsay Horan, hugged his teammates and left the field in tears for replacement Andi Sullivan.
“We are very happy that we scored before [I was subbed]. It just felt like a really good ending to say bye,” said Ertz in the TNT post-game show.
“I always knew I loved the sport, and in that moment, I think…the remaining 35 minutes that I was blessed with, I just felt it. I felt how much I loved it. I’m so grateful. “
Williams was in the right place at the right time again for his second goal of the half for another easy close-range finish, and the US took a 3-0 halftime lead.
The second half was played at a slower pace than the first and saw the US debut of hometown player Mary Vignola, who came on for Crystal Dunn at the break. Angel City teenager Alyssa Thompson, who played with Ertz at the World Cup last summer, came on for Rodman in the 77th minute, but the US couldn’t add to the final scoreline.
After the game, Ertz walked around the field to cheers from fans, many of whom held signs that read, “Thank you Julie.”
“When you can take a dream and make it a reality, it’s a cool dream to have,” Ertz said.
The US, coached by interim manager Twila Kilgore, played South Africa again on Sunday and said goodbye to another retired team legend in Megan Rapinoe.
It was the first game for the United States since exiting this summer’s Women’s World Cup in the Round of 16. The Americans were eliminated by Sweden in a penalty shootout, their first ever elimination from soccer’s premier tournament.
The 31-year-old Ertz announced his retirement after the loss to Sweden, tearfully telling reporters it would likely be his last game wearing the team crest. He made it official in August.
“Julie has been a mainstay since she joined this team. She took her chance in 2014, 2015 and ran with it, and she’s really been one of the most important players for this team in the last decade,” said Alex Morgan. “He’s going on his terms, and I’m very happy for him.”
Ertz said before Thursday’s game that spending time with her son and husband Zach Ertz, a tight end for the Arizona Cardinals, is “irreplaceable.” And he thankfully walked away on his own terms.
“I feel like I can walk away and be like, ‘It’s not because Mom can’t play. Mom can play. She just adjusted her priorities,'” he said. “And I think that just comes with age and I feel very blessed to have the career that I’ve had.”
Known for his versatility, Ertz was a center back for the 2015 World Cup champion US team and a defensive midfielder when the Americans defended their title in 2019.
He finished his career in the national team with 20 goals. He started all 17 of his World Cup matches.
Ertz scored six goals in 95 games with the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars from 2014-2021. He played three games for Angel City FC this season with one goal.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.