On the new episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, SI.com speaks to Julie Ertz of the U.S. women’s national team and the Chicago Red Stars about the Women's World Cup year ahead, her remarkable ability to score on set-piece headers and her power couple relationship with Super Bowl-winning husband Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles.
You can listen to the full episode in the podcast console below and subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Recent guests include Bundesliga-based U.S. national team rising stars Josh Sargent and Tyler Adams, The Ringer's Bill Simmons, ESPN's Katie Nolan, former U.S. women's national team forward Abby Wambach and former U.S. men's forward Eddie Johnson.
Here are some of Ertz's most intriguing responses during the interview:
On looking ahead to 2019 and challenging friendlies this month at France and Spain:
“I'm really excited. I think going undefeated in 2018 definitely gives confidence, but I also think it gives us motivation, because we want to stay there and continue that. Our team has so much depth it's unbelievable. Hats off to the coaches for having a really tough schedule. I think this is probably one of the toughest schedules the federation has had ever, and that's huge for us, because we're going to see a lot of different opponents, a lot of opponents that will be in the World Cup and a lot of different styles of play.”
On the U.S. attack being so feared these days, but the U.S. defense not being challenged much in recent months:
“I go up against our defense every single day, and they go up against our offense every day. They're hungry, they're amazing, they're fantastic. That's not a worry for me. They are unbelievable. On the whole, we are really excited. We talk about defense all over the field, and that starts with the forwards. So when you say defense, I think of the entire team. We really want to go into this World Cup having both offense and defense really sharp, so that's our focus.”
On her uncanny ability to score on set-piece headers (she now has 18 international goals):
“I'm not really that close to the goal besides then, so I really want to score. I'm kind of far away from the goal to shoot. To be honest, we have world-class services, so my job’s easy when [Megan Rapinoe], Tobin [Heath], Rose [Lavelle] or whoever it is is whipping in these balls, because they're really world-class. So I’m not going to take all the credit. All I have to do is run as hard as I can at the ball. I just love trying to score, I guess ... I'm not backing out, so someone has to … I've knocked my teeth out so many times. My mom’s so annoyed at how many times I’ve knocked out my teeth. She wants me to wear a mouthguard … My dentist is my uncle, and our family always jokes that's one of the best family-member careers that could have been attached to our family, because I'm losing my teeth all the time.”
On who would be a better player in each other’s sport—her as an American football player or her husband, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, as a soccer player:
“It depends on what position (laughs). We've already talked about this. This is actually like to a tee—I told him that if I was in a position I think that I would be a safety, and he thinks I would be either a really good safety or a really good linebacker. So then I’m like, O.K., clearly I'm on defense in football. And I would be a way better defender at football than Zach would be, because Zach loves to catch the ball and stuff. Zach’s eye-foot coordination isn't fantastic, but he’d be an amazing keeper. But he's way bigger than I am in goal, so he'd be better than me at keeper. So technically that question’s kind of flawed, because it depends.”
On whether, if she were a football safety and Zach were coming across the middle, she would hesitate to hit him very hard:
“No, absolutely not.” (laughs)