The seats in Zion’s Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah may have been empty for the Chicago Red Star’s NWSL Challenge Cup match against the Washington Spirit, but the embrace between U.S. Women’s National Team stars Casey Short and Julie Ertz was felt around the world.
As both teams kneeled during the national anthem to support Black Lives Matter, a movement that brings attention to race relations and police brutality in the United States, Short wept into Ertz’s arms allowing her emotions to be on full display.
“Those tears were the first time we felt hope in a long time,” Short said in a joint statement with Ertz.
Short understands the decision to kneel can provoke controversy among players and fans, though she realizes that the action can inspire and bring people together.
“Through our continuous conversations we wanted to make sure that whatever we decided to do, it would not be an empty gesture,” Short said. “It would be a gesture that portrayed that we have heard those who needed to be heard, validated and loved. We are still searching but we are humbled by the outpouring of support.”
The Red Stars and U.S. Women’s National Team left back is no stranger to difficult situations.
In 2011, Short tore her left ACL and MCL in college at Florida State. Just two years later, Short entered the National Women’s Soccer League as a rookie, but she tore her right ACL with the United States Under-23 national team. The Naperville, Illinois native then missed the 2014 season due to complications arising from her right knee injury. It was her third surgery in three years.
“After that third surgery on my knee I think that’s when I sort of hit rock bottom and started to question myself, wondered are my knees really going to hold up for the next level? Then, let alone, I still had aspirations being on the national team as well,” Short told the Chicago Sun-Times. “My support system really helped me through it, and then I realized how badly I really wanted to accomplish these goals.” Her fortunes turned in 2015. Short signed for Avaldsnes IL, a club in the top division of Norwegian football. A successful spell there led her back to the NWSL in 2016, where she has been a consistent starter for Chicago since her return.
Her talent and perseverance soon pushed her back into the USWNT conversation. She earned her debut in October 2016 and quickly became a first-choice left back for head coach Jill Ellis. Despite helping the USWNT qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, Short was one of the final players cut, and regarded as one of the biggest snubs. Ellis opted for Crystal Dunn and Tierna Davidson in her place, two players that are not natural left backs. The USWNT went on to win the country’s fourth World Cup, while Short was at home in Chicago.
“Just because one coach doesn’t see your value, you can’t let that define your entire journey,” Short told to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve definitely had everyone in my life step up and help me climb out of this. I’ve had a lot of help and support.”
Short rebounded, as she always does. In November 2019, new USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski started the Red Stars defender in his first game in charge. She recorded an assist after just six minutes.
Now Short is turning toward Ertz and her teammates for support yet again. Although she undoubtedly faced heartbreak after the World Cup snub, Short struggles to bring clarity to a movement that affects far more people than just herself.
“Currently, every time the national anthem is played, our country continues to become more and more divided on what the visual symbol of unity looks like,” Short said. “That moment during the anthem was difficult, very difficult. We are still searching but we are humbled by the outpouring of support.
“I have to ask where my hope lies. It lies in my faith, and those types of conversations that are long overdue. The types of conversations that are raw and uncomfortable, that can lead to real, impactful change.”