Selected 8th overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Julian Gressel defied expectations last year – playing a key role in Atlanta United’s historic inaugural season. His five goals and nine assists in 32 games earned him the title of MLS Rookie of the Year, and for those who may have thought it was due to beginner’s luck, the German is proving in 2018 that last season was only a warm-up.
Coming off a week where his team bagged nine points and nine goals, Gressel was imperative to their success – directly involved in five of the goals (4 assists, 1 goal) including this cracker of a volley against Real Salt Lake at home which put him in the Goal of the Week conversation. And while the 24-year-old had an incredible week, it’s just a snippet of the amount he’s contributed all season long.
Gressel has started all but one of 30 games this season for the Five Stripes, clocking a full 90 minutes in 25 out of the 29 – 2,585 minutes in 2018 so far compared to 2,048 total last season. He’s also surpassed his assist tally of nine last year with 14 already this season – tied for second in the league with teammate Miguel Almirón. And while he hasn’t surpassed his goal tally of five from last season just yet, he still has four games remaining to add to his three so far in 2018 and plenty more chances to continue to contribute heavily to Atlanta United’s race for the Supporters’ Shield.
Gressel’s versatility, consistency, and soccer IQ have made him an indispensable piece in Tata Martino’s team over the last few seasons. Primarily deployed on the wing, he’s also played stints on the back line and in the center of the park. But with a healthy squad, Martino usually elects to put him on the wing where he’s been incredibly dangerous – making his signature low zipping crosses now customary to the Atlanta United faithful. And on that note, another remarkable stat is of the historic 30 goals of Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez, Julian Gressel’s seven assists to him rank the highest on the team.
The man they call “Gresselmania” continues to show why he’s one of the best ever to come out of the MLS SuperDraft and if you haven’t watched enough matches to know it, the numbers speak for themselves. If Atlanta United is to earn their first piece of silverware this season, there’s no doubt Julian Gressel will be involved.