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Julie Ertz plays for the Chicago Red Stars, but the Red Stars couldn’t on their own disclose the extent of a right knee injury that will keep their captain out of action until just before the Tokyo Olympics.
Confused? Welcome to the tricky relationship between the National Women’s Soccer League and US Soccer Federation.
US Soccer on Thursday said Ertz, 29, suffered a right MCL sprain when she collided with Portland Thorns midfielder Rocky Rodríguez during a 50-50 challenge in the 26th minute of the Red Stars’ 5-0 loss Sunday to open the regular season.
Ertz was helped off the field by training staff and visibly struggled to put weight on her right knee. After the game, Red Stars coach Rory Dames said Ertz was set to have an MRI on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Red Stars (0-1-0, 0 points) said in a statement to the Tribune, “The only thing being confirmed at this time is that she suffered an injury to her right knee.”
During a teleconference earlier Thursday, Dames said Ertz won’t play against NJ/NY Gotham FC at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on Saturday (7 p.m., Paramount+).
But because Ertz is an allocated player whose salary is paid for by US Soccer, that means she essentially is on loan to the Red Stars from the national team. And further updates — such as the testing Dames said Ertz is going through — likely would come from the federation, Dames said.
“I think you’re probably going to have to direct those questions to US Soccer,” he said. “She’s an allocated player, they have the Olympics coming up. What they do or do not want to disclose about her injury and who they want or not want to know, that will be up to them, not up to us.”
When asked about Ertz’s status beyond this weekend, Dames said, “I don’t have anything that I can disclose at this point.”
The length of the injury is a relief for the U.S. heading into this summer’s Olympics but bad news for a Red Stars team looking to win its first trophy since 2012 after finishing as runners-up in the 2019 NWSL final and 2020 Challenge Cup.
Ertz will miss matches through the middle of June but should be back with the U.S. squad in time for Olympic send-off matches in July. That means the Red Stars likely will be without their captain until at least early August barring any setbacks.
Ertz, who was taken with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, is among the NWSL’s most durable players, starting more than 100 matches for the Red Stars in league and Challenge Cup play.
She also is a national team mainstay — frequently playing the full 90 minutes — and plays a crucial role linking the defense and attack as the team’s holding midfielder. Her presence as the No. 6 played a key role in the U.S. winning the 2019 World Cup.
But with Ertz out, the Red Stars will make a shift in midfield, especially with Morgan Gautrat’s return from a one-game suspension.
“We had Julie in the No. 6 for a specific reason for some things that we thought would make us stronger,” Dames said. “When Julie’s not in the No. 6, I think we’ll have to play a little bit differently, but I think we’re fortunate that midfield’s probably our deepest line. We have plenty of players … that can step up.
“You don’t replace Julie with any one player, it’ll have to be a collective group effort from all 11 people. But Julie hasn’t been in midfield a lot for us in her time here, so we’ll adjust accordingly.”