Julie Ertz was a standout at defensive midfield for the U.S. women’s national team in 2017. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
CHICAGO – Julie Ertz has been voted the 2017 U.S. Soccer female player of the year, while Sophia Smith earned young female player of the year honors, it was announced Wednesday.
Ertz became the third player to be named both the U.S. Soccer female player of the year and young female player of the year. She was the young female player of the year in 2012 when she captained the U.S. to the Under-20 Women’s World Cup title and won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the tournament. Lauren Holiday (2014 and 2007) and Tobin Heath (2016 and 2009) are the other two players, making the five years between the awards for Ertz the shortest time for any player.
A breakout star at center back for the U.S. at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Ertz started playing defensive midfielder during the Tournament of Nations last summer and made a huge impact at the position during the final eight games of the year, a stretch in which the Americans went 7-0-1.
Her impact on both sides of the ball for club and country was impressive as she combined her world-class ball-winning skills with an ability to set the attack in midfield while proving consistently dangerous in the penalty area. Ertz received 51.6 percent of the votes. Megan Rapinoe finished second.
Ertz’s six international goals in 2017 almost equaled her overall total (eight) from her previous four years.
Performing almost exclusively as a defensive midfielder, Ertz played all but 48 minutes across 22 of the Chicago Red Stars’ 24 regular season matches – as well as in the National Women’s Soccer League semifinal vs. the North Carolina Courage – while scoring four goals and adding three assists. She was named to the NWSL Second XI.
“I want to give a big thanks to everyone who voted,” Ertz said in a statement. “This was a really unique year for me with a lot of different challenges, but it means so much to have the support of my husband, my family, my coaches and my teammates. I’m honored and thankful from the bottom of my heart and I’m really looking forward to next year and as we have some big goals to accomplish.”
Smith, a high school senior who hails from Windsor, Colorado, plays her club soccer for the Real Colorado U-18/19 Development Academy. She has scored 16 goals this season.
The 17-year-old had the rare distinction of scoring for three U.S. national teams this year. In February, she scored for the U-18 WNT against England and Norway. For the U-20 WNT, she scored against Norway (twice), Germany (twice), France, Japan and England (twice). And for the U-23 WNT, she scored against Norway as well as the game-winner against the Portland Thorns.
She tied for the U-20 team-lead with eight goals this year and has played in 19 total international matches in 2017 – the most of any player in any age group, including the senior WNT – over four youth national teams. Smith earned three caps for the U-23s, her first 11 for the U-20s, two for the U-19s, and three for the U-18s. She also earned experience during her first call-up to the full U.S. women’s team, training with the senior side during April friendlies against Russia, but did not earn cap.
“I’m very honored and humbled to be receiving this award and am sincerely thankful for all the opportunities that U.S. Soccer has provided to me,” Smith said in a statement. “Seeing all the players that have won this award before just gives me even more motivation to keep getting better and working even harder to continue pursuing my soccer dreams. I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to play with such talented players, who are also great friends and people in general, and I owe a lot to my National Team and Real Colorado coaches. We all push each other to be better every day.”
Smith received 48.5% of the vote. Defender Tierna Davidson, a Stanford sophomore who helped lead the Cardinal to the NCAA Division I championship this fall, finished second.
A new voting process for these awards was implemented in 2014. Votes are collected from respective national team coaches, national team players who have earned a cap in 2017, American soccer league (Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League and NWSL) head coaches, select media members, former players and administrators.