United States midfielder Julie Ertz said that a “love for the game” gave her the motivation to return to the national team after giving birth to her son last August.

Ertz, 30, is taking part in her first USWNT camp since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and hopes to see the field in games against Ireland on April 8 in Austin, Texas, and against the same team three days later in St. Louis.

The matches are the final tune-ups ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which starts in July. Vlatko Andonovski is expected to name his World Cup roster later in the spring.

“I think clearly, the love for the game is hard to step away from,” Ertz told reporters on a conference call. “Obviously coming back from pregnancy changes things, obviously your body. So I just wanted to make sure when I was coming back that I felt like I was strong enough to be able to feel like I could be myself.

“I’m very grateful to be back and it’s really cool to see the girls and the energy of a World Cup year.”

Complicating matters for Ertz is the fact she is currently without a club and has only been able to train with an MLS academy team and working with a private trainer in a bid to regain fitness.

When asked where things stood in terms of her club future, Ertz only said that she is in conversations with multiple teams, but also sensed the urgency of finding a club team given that the World Cup is three-and-a-half months away.

“I’m trying to stay focused on the games coming up, but also knowing that I need a club team,” Ertz said.

At present, the current camp is just two days old, but Ertz feels she’s in a good place beyond just how she’s feeling physically. There are technical, tactical and emotional considerations as well.

“Emotionally I feel good. I’m in a good head space to just understand, to give myself a little bit of grace,” Ertz said. “But overall, I feel like being in this environment, the game and really the mental side has always been the hardest section, especially being with such elite players day in and day out.

“So that almost was the one that I wanted to really focus on coming in here because coming back pregnant or not, five years ago, whatever, you have good days and bad days and it’s just making sure that you can control…the technical side is what you can control, that stuff. And the mental side, I wanted to make sure that I was focused on as well.”

Ertz added that she had long conversations with her husband, Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz, about returning to the field and how that would impact their lives. They ultimately decided that a comeback for Julie was possible.

“I think when you have two athletes [who are] probably closer towards not the beginning of their career, it’s emotional,” she said. “It’s emotional conversations, but also very touching and real and raw. And there was a moment I feel like, and I can’t really give you the exact date in my head, but I know that I was sitting on the couch with my husband and my baby and we talked about everything, like having a baby, the process of having a baby, life, like wanting to play.

“But how does it work logistically and making sure my family’s there. It’s all that, and anyone who has kind of gone through that process of having a kid and coming back to work, it’s challenging and I would say extremely emotional.”

Ertz is by no means the only player in camp with a child in tow. In what is an unofficial record, the USWNT have five mothers in camp: Casey Krueger, Ertz, Crystal Dunn, Adrianna Franch and Alex Morgan.

Ertz said she had leaned on the experience of her international teammates, who are also moms in navigating her return. She’s also gotten advice from Chicago Red Stars forward Cheyna Matthews and former teammate Kealia Watt.

She added: “It’s nice to be able to have somebody there that also understands, but also pushes you and knows where you kind of want to be and being teammates prior as well.”

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Julie Ertz making United States return for ‘love of game’