By Amy Woodyatt and Aimee Lewis, CNN
(CNN) — As the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) prepares to take on South Africa at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, the team is also gearing up to say goodbye to one of its most integral members of the last few years, soccer great Julie Ertz.
The game, which kicks off at 7.30 p.m. ET Thursday will see the two-time Women’s World Cup winner and two-time Olympian earn her 123rd and final cap for the US. She announced her retirement last month, adding that she made the decision “with immense emotion and processing.”
Ertz, 31, was an integral member of the US teams which won the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019. She represented the US women’s team on 122 occasions, losing just five matches and scoring 20 goals during her 10-year international career.
She made her senior international debut in 2013 and went on to play in 17 World Cup matches, winning 13 of those.
Ertz told reporters on Wednesday: “There’s always the next opportunity, and your whole career as an athlete, you’re like, ‘I don’t want to regret anything.’
“And I think when I get to a point to be able to choose myself, when I could step away … I do feel I could step away and be like, ‘It’s not because Momma can’t play. Momma can play. She has just adapted priorities.’”
Ertz said that this shift in perspective has come with age and spoke to reporters of her son Madden, adding that her time with family is “just irreplaceable” given his age.
The former Chicago Red Stars player is the only person to win the US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year and the US Soccer Female Player of the Year awards twice, according to US Soccer.
Following the birth of her son in August 2022, Ertz returned to the sport, signing for National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) side Angel City in April and featuring for the US at this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Interim US head coach Twila Kilgore praised Ertz’s “high level of detail” and “unmatched” organization on the pitch Wednesday.
“At every moment, she just brings the very very best out of herself and the group,” she added.
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