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World Cup bubble of isolation helps USWNT focus

Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher say they try to stay off social media during the World Cup, so didn’t see Hope Solo’s disparaging comments about their coach.

Players run during a US womens soccer team training session at the Tottenham Hotspur training centre in London, Thursday, June 6, 2019. The Women's World Cup starts in France on June 7. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

REIMS, France — Did you see Hope Solo’s comments about Jill Ellis?

The first question of the day left blank stares on the faces of United States women’s national team players Alyssa Naeher and Julie Ertz. 

Naeher, the person charged with following Solo as the starting U.S. goalkeeper, answered by saying she hadn’t seen the comments made to BBC — that the U.S. coach “cracks under pressure” and doesn’t have a leadership quality — so she couldn’t respond. 

“I haven’t been on social media since we left New York, so I’m not really sure what all is going on,” Naeher said, trailing off.

Ertz picked up, adding, “Same, yeah. They basically created this bubble for us, so we don’t really know much.”

That bubble helps keep the team focused on the task of winning the World Cup. But each player determines how sealed off from the world she wants to be, according to the Ertz, who still communicates regularly with her family. That includes husband Zach Ertz, who has experience blocking out distractions ahead of a major event since he played in Super Bowl LII for the winning Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. 

“It’s not difficult at all, it’s actually easier,” Ertz said with a laugh when asked if it’s hard to stay away from social media.

She said the time change, which is six hours ahead of the United States, also helps.

“I mean, my husband doesn’t wake up until it’s like 3 o’clock here, so yea, it’s easy to stay off our phones.”


Naeher said the biggest thing she learned from the 2015 World Cup was the importance of creating boundaries, and everyone on the team has their own version of that.

“I think the most important thing is what works for you and what is going to make you the most successful,” she said. 

Being in England for 10 days for a pre-World Cup training camp helped. The players got away from all the distractions that come with preparing for and promoting a World Cup in their home country. There, at the Tottenham Hotspur training facility, they focused on themselves, each other and building the cohesion required of a world champion.

“The best way to come together as a group is to kind of create that bubble, eliminate all the outside noise,” Naeher explained when asked why isolation is so important for them. “We have all those expectations for ourselves. We don’t need any outside things. We have high standards. We want to win. We want to come out of the group with nine points. We want to move on to each of the four games after that.

“So, I think just the more that we can, kind of, bond and come together as a group, you’ll be able to see that on the field. I think all that translates into performances. You can see the teams that are cohesive and you can see the teams that aren’t, and we want to be one of those cohesive teams.”

Especially when FIFA estimates one billion people will watch the Women’s World Cup this year on television. And when oddsmakers give France a slight advantage to win it all over the USWNT getting back-to-back titles. And when a former player bashes the coach.

But the Americans don’t stress about any of that  — if they stay in the bubble.




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