Atlanta United’s 23-year-old SuperDraft selection Julian Gressel notched his first Major League Soccer goal last week in a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers. The build-up to a goal is sometimes so precise that we wonder whether or not it was planned, other times it’s simply about being in the right place at the right time. According to Gressel, “It was all instinctive how it happened, I saw Jeff on the side trying to play Tito and he just missed the ball and I was in a good spot behind him to run onto the ball and take a good first touch.” But as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. “I scored a couple goals with my left like that throughout the week so it felt pretty good about it, it bounced nicely, I took a swing at it, it hit nice and inside the post and it went in.”
Gressel scored the first goal of the match in Portland and added to the team’s impressive goal tally of 20 on the season. Atlanta United acquired the German native from the MLS SuperDraft in January where he was selected 8th overall from Providence College. The transition from a collegiate level to MLS is not an easy one for most, but it’s not as difficult of an adjustment for Gressel as one may think. “It’s different, I’ve had it how it is now back in Germany before I came to college, so I kind of knew how it was to just play on the weekends basically Saturday games; in college it’s a lot more compressed,” he said. The way the games are spread out is more beneficial to the team according to Gressel, “For example in college you play Friday then Sunday, so it’s obviously a little nicer, you get a little bit more time to recover before you actually have to play a game again, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well and because I knew it before I have been able to adjust easier and just be ready on game day.”
Atlanta United were unable to grab any points in their previous match at Yankee Stadium against NYCFC, which led to head coach Tata Martino’s tactical changes in Portland. “It felt good to change it up; we practiced a little during the week like that so I had a feeling it was coming on game day,” said Gressel. The adjustment led Julian to his first goal for Atlanta United and it may have been his comfort level in the position. “I’ve played there before on the right wing and I know the other guys around me pretty well, and I know what they bring to the table in their positions. I hope they know what I bring to the table in the right wing position. It isn't really a big change for me to go from central to right wing or left wing.”
It has been nearly four months since the season started for Atlanta United and building rapport with one another is a top priority. If you ask Julian Gressel, the team has begun to mesh nicely. “I think we have adjusted well. But we are still learning each other. We’ve been together for four months, it’s not like Columbus who have been together for years and years who know what their main guys bring to the table each and every day in practice or every game. It’s obviously still a work in progress; we spoke a lot about getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of your teammates around you and their positions. For example, you have Kenwyne in there who brings different stuff to the table than Tito up top. It’s a work in progress and I think we are doing a good job and learning on the fly.”
As for Gresselmania, it is officially in full force. But don’t expect to see any “Gresselmania T-shirts” incorporated into Julian’s celebrations. “I’ve thought a lot about it, but I’m pretty sure I’d be fined. It’s been great though a lot of my friends call me Gresselmania, they have the shirts and I just sent some over to Germany so it’s really cool,” he said.
Atlanta United gear up for two consecutive home matches at Bobby Dodd Stadium starting with Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. ET which you can catch the live on FOX Sports Southeast.