Zach Ertz supports wife Julie and USA at Women's World Cup

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zach Ertz walked to the podium inside State Farm Stadium after the Arizona Cardinals' first training camp practice of the season on Wednesday wearing an Ertz jersey.

Except it wasn't his own.

The "8" emblazoned on the front of the white Nike U.S. Women's National Team jersey belongs to his wife Julie Ertz, a midfielder on the squad playing in the Women's World Cup in New Zealand.

No, Zach didn't have to pay for it. He joked it was included when he bought into the "family program in New Zealand." Ertz spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand with Julie, their son, Madden, and his mom, Lisa Ertz, before watching the United States' 3-0 win over Vietnam on Friday and catching a flight back home to Arizona right after. He arrived back in America on Saturday and reported for training camp on Tuesday.

He said he is going to try to convince new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon to cancel the team meeting scheduled for Wednesday night, when the United States is set to play the Netherlands at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. local time. Gannon said they'll have the game on TVs around the team's hotel in Arizona.

Watching Julie on TV, especially in a World Cup, is "definitely stressful" but Zach's not one to yell at the TV -- that much, especially during the group stage. The knockout rounds, Zach said, are a different story.

"Julie has high expectations for herself," Zach said. "So, supporting her and understanding how her emotions are going to be after a game, I mean it's very similar to how she watches my games. Obviously, we want them to win every time, but we also want them to play extremely well as well and so it's being a supportive husband and that's all I can do. I think I've done that over the years."

Leaving Julie, Madden and his mom back in New Zealand wasn't easy over the weekend.

For more than a decade, Zach and Julie did the long-distance thing, even after getting married, because of their respective professions, but the two had been together pretty much daily since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

That's since changed since Julie returned to soccer in April for Angel City FC of the NWSL, after having Madden in August 2022.

They've figured out how to live apart over the years, but adding in a son made saying goodbye more difficult. Zach FaceTimes them as much as he can, in part to see Madden, in part to see Julie and in part to check in on his mom, who's being the ultimate grandmother all the way across the world.

This is the longest Zach will be away from Madden since he was born on Aug. 11, 2022, and from Julie during the past few years. If the United States makes the quarterfinal round, Zach will be away from Madden on his first birthday. It made more sense for Madden to stay with Julie and Zach's mom in New Zealand than return to Arizona, where Zach was going to stay at the team hotel for a few weeks during training camp. Julie can see Madden every day and help take care of him along with Zach's mom.

Zach did have one message for his wife before leaving New Zealand: "Don't come home without that gold."

"I understood this was part of the deal when she went back to playing and I was fully supportive of that decision," Zach said. "It's going to be tough missing this first birthday, that's for sure, as long as they're still playing. But, at the end of the day, this is going to be an amazing story to tell."

Watching Julie play in her third World Cup on Friday was more than just a heartwarming moment for a husband seeing his wife play the game she loves. It was Zach watching the culmination of Julie's comeback.

She tore her MCL in May 2021 and missed the rest of the Chicago Red Stars' season, had Madden in August 2022 and didn't play again until April 23 of this year.

"It's incredible," Zach said. "Especially having a baby less than a year ago, playing in the World Cup at, essentially, 11 months from having a baby is remarkable. Just the woman's body, just seeing the whole thing and her able to come back is crazy, and it's awesome.

"I mean, it's inspiring."

After Madden's birth, Zach and Julie had "a lot of heartfelt conversations" that ended with her in tears. Zach could tell she wanted to continue playing and he urged her to give it a try.

"I didn't want her to look back in five, 10 years like, 'Man, if only I could've seen if I could've done it.' She didn't know if she could do it, but at least exhaust the option," he said. "And, so, we had a lot of discussions and I just kind of pushed her. I said, 'Hey, you need to exhaust this. Give it all you can, and if it works, great. If it doesn't, at least you know.' And obviously it has."