Julie Ertz was a dominant midfield force for the USWNT. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
CHICAGO – Surprise, surprise.
Someone other than Megan Rapinoe has earned a major women’s soccer honor this year — Julie Ertz.
In a year in which she proved to be one of the most impactful players in all of women’s soccer, Ertz, the U.S. women’s national team and Chicago Red Stars midfielder, has been voted the 2019 U.S. Soccer female player of the year, the organization announced Friday morning.
This was the second U.S. Soccer female player of the year award for Ertz, who also earned the honor in 2017. Ertz became the 10th USWNT player to win the award multiple times, but the only one of those 10 who also won the U.S. Soccer young female player of the year, which she earned in 2012 after leading the USA to the 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup title.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a year and one that I’m extremely grateful for,” Ertz said. “My team lifted me up in so many ways and our experiences on and off the field in 2019 just encapsulate the love I have for the national team and for wearing this crest and what it represents.”
The 27-year-old Ertz, who hails from Mesa, Ariz., carried the dominant play she showed in 2017 and 2018 through 2019 as she proved herself to be one of the world’s best. Her ball-winning in the air and on the ground, her ability to help set the USA’s tempo in the attack and the danger she provided inside the penalty area on set pieces combined to make her one of the USA’s most effective players and a fan favorite.
In 2019, Ertz started a team-high 22 games for the USA. Her 1,755 minutes played were third-most on the team. She finished the year with 95 career caps.
The appreciation for Ertz’ impact and the rigidity she provided to the USA’s defensive spine, was underscored by the fact that she tallied only one goal in 2019, coming on a spectacular header against Chile during group play at the Women’s World Cup as she helped the USA to its second consecutive title. She played 474 minutes over six games, all starts.
Ertz was widely hailed for her performance in France and was named to the FIFA FIFPRO World XI at the end of the year.
“Julie was such a critical part of our success this summer,” former USWNT head coach Jill Ellis said. “It’s wonderful that she’s being recognized in this way. She’s always a consummate professional regardless of the environment. Whether it’s in training, National Team games or in the NWSL, she always brings a level of professionalism, effort and talent.”
Ertz also had a banner club season, helping the Stars to second place in the NWSL standings, a victory in the playoff semifinal and their first berth in the championship game. She played every minute of her 14 regular season starts and every minute of both playoff games. She was named to the NWSL Best XI as a midfielder, but also played considerable minutes in the center of the defense. She tied with five other U.S. teammates for most regular season minutes played in the NWSL by any 2019 World Cup Team member.
“All of my teammates just had such an amazing year and we all know it takes an entire team to win a World Cup or have a successful club season,” Ertz said. “We are all a sum of the people around us, so I want to especially thank [my husband] Zach and my family, all my coaches for the national team and the Red Stars, and all my teammates for their never-ending support. It’s emotional to be recognized in this way and it’s a cherry on top of a beautiful 2019. It’s incredible.”
The U.S. Soccer female player of the year has been awarded since 1985, when midfielder Sharon Remer earned the first Female Athlete of the Year honor. Abby Wambach won it six times, the most of any player.
Votes for the award are collected from respective national team coaches, national team players who earned a cap in 2019, members of the U.S. Soccer board of directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, NWSL head coaches, select media members and former players and administrators. Select college coaches also voted for the award.