Starting all three regular season matches for Atlanta United and clocking over 240 minutes, it’s safe to say MLS rookie, Julian Gressel, is making his mark in the league. If you ask Head Coach Tata Martino, he isn’t surprised by the 23-year-old German’s rise from 8th overall SuperDraft selection to MLS starter.
“So the first time we saw Julian was at the draft and we thought he was a very good player. He understands the concepts of the game really well. He is dynamic, he’s good on the ball, and he has been important for us.”
Beyond earning a starting position in the 2017 expansion side, Gressel has been a key component of the lethal Atlanta United attack that has notched 11 goals in just three matches. Playing in a box-to-box center midfield role, the MLS rookie offers a dependable link between the defense and the front line.
He was heavily involved in the 4-0 rout of Chicago Fire in the club’s first-ever home victory, including the early moment that set the tone for the match. Just four minutes into the 90, Hector Villaba cut through the Fire backline and laid the ball off to Gressel down the side of the 18-yard box. From there, Gressel hit a dangerous across the face of the goal, which then deflected off Chicago Defender Brandon Vincent for an own goal.
“I don’t want to call it my first goal but I just saw the space and ran in and told Tito to play it to me and he did and you know it just figured I’d play it in a dangerous position,” said Gressel. “And luckily someone deflected it and just went in.”
It’s only week three and the 23-year-old has proven vital to his club so far helping his side to the top of the Eastern Conference table, but Gressel is keen on remaining focused and improving his game every day.
“I know what I can do. I know that I can be out there and I think I deserve it. I think I played all right so far. Obviously, it’s great that he trusts me with a starting role and I still try to learn a lot every day and get better.”
Gressel and the rest of the Atlanta United squad will kick off a four match road stretch beginning with a cross-country trip to Seattle on March 31 where they will face the 2016 MLS Cup Champions.