Julian Gressel is not used to being considered old.
“There are guys here that are 16 or 17,” he laughed. “I’m 24 now, which is weird to think in my second year being the old guy.”
“Old” is an overstatement for the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year. But a year is a long time in professional soccer, and 365 days worth of wisdom has had a huge impact on Julian Gressel’s game.
“[I’ve learned] a whole lot. Tata is a great coach, a great soccer mind, and you can take away a lot of things on a daily basis. I’m sure I’ll pick up more this year, I’m obviously trying to get better as a player and a team in general together.”
While his goals of improvement remain the same, there is a little more comfort coming into preseason with a professional season under his belt.
“I’m more familiar with teammates, the coaching staff,” he says. “We know what they want from us, we know the drills that we’re doing. Now it’s time to take the next step and getting the new guys involved and up to speed and then just keeping it up from there.”
With offseason comes changes to the roster, but Gressel isn’t focused on who fits in where in the team sheet just yet.
“I think we still have a heavy focus on the physical aspect of it now over the last few weeks. I’m sure we’ll get more into it as the weeks go on.”
The German isn’t going to let the “Rookie of the Year” crown weigh too heavily on his head. It's a new year and a new Gressel.
“I put the pressure on myself, I don’t think there’s outside pressure. I want to be playing as much as I did last year, if not more. I want to be a guy that’s on the field contributing to the team’s success. I’m just going to have to work hard and develop.”
Julian and his teammates have their eyes on the next step after the bitter taste of playoff elimination. They’ll start that journey on March 3rd against the Houston Dynamo before returning to Atlanta for their home opener against D.C. United on March 11th. Tickets to that match are now available –– make sure you get your tickets here.