Commentary

Julian Gressel rewarded with his first U.S. call-up

There will be 13 players in the U.S. men's national camp this week in Carson, California, who are seeking to earn their first cap.

The oldest of the newbies by three and half years is also the team's newest U.S. citizen.

"Ever since I first stepped foot into the U.S., I fell in love with the country," said German-born Julian Gressel on Saturday, "and that's why it's really exciting to be able to represent the U.S. on the field in these upcoming two games."

Gressel, 29, became a U.S. citizen last November, 12 years after he spent a year as an exchange student at the Pine School in Florida, nine years after he returned to the United States to play soccer at Providence College and just five years after he was the MLS Rookie of the Year with expansion Atlanta United.

Gressel met his wife Casey at Providence, where he helped the Friars reach the Men's College Cup for the first time in 2014. He played a starring role in one of the wildest matches in the history of the NCAA Division I Tournament, scoring twice as Providence came back from 4-1 down to beat unbeaten Maryland, 5-4, in the second round of the 2016 tournament.

The German star was taken by expansion Atlanta United with the 8th pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and immediately stepped into the starting lineup.

“The first time we saw Julian was at the draft, and we thought he was a very good player,” said Atlanta United coach Tata Martino early in the 2017 season. “He understands the concepts of the game really well, he’s dynamic, he’s good on the ball, and he’s been very important for us.”

Gressel scored five goals and added nine assists, playing in multiple positions and winning the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year award. In 2018, he started as Atlanta United won MLS Cup and won two more trophies in 2019 when the Five Stripes captured the U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup.

With Gressel due for a big raise — he signed for an initial contract of $93,750 (guaranteed compensation) in 2017 — Atlanta United traded him to D.C. United in what was the first of two trades in three seasons.



Last summer, United dealt him to Vancouver shortly after Wayne Rooney was hired as head coach. Gressel was outspoken about the brutal nature of MLS's trade system — he thought he was getting a heads-up that he might be on the trade block when he was called in by the front office and received the news of the move — but quickly settled in with the Whitecaps, winning the Canadian championship that qualified Vancouver for the 2023 Concacaf Champions League.

"The two games now on the schedule are big for me," he said of the USA's friendlies against Serbia on Wednesday and Colombia on Saturday. "It will be fun to play right away at that level and prepare for the Champions League and be ready to go."

In 2021, Gressel was third in MLS with 13 assists and was leading United with seven assists when he was traded last summer. He played a variety of positions for Vancouver coach Vanni Sartini — wingback, winger and attacking midfielder -- and started the Whitecaps' first preseason game on Wednesday against Hamburg in Spain as a double pivot in midfield.

He expects to play at right back for the USA, whose other three outside backs in Carson all regularly play on the left side: Jonathan Gomez, the right-footed DeJuan Jones and John Tolkin.

The USA took four right backs to the World Cup though two of them are MLS players who weren't called into January camp — Shaq Moore and DeAndre Yedlin.

At 29, Gressel's first senior call-up comes late in his career, but it makes the long journey from TSV Neustadt/Aisch in the German regional fifth-tier Bayernliga to Providence College then three MLS clubs in six years worth it.

"My family back home, they're obviously all German and all from Germany, but they're very excited," he said on Saturday. "I got phone calls and I had a really, really cool conversation with my grandpa, for example, who is a huge, huge soccer fan, obviously a huge fan of mine, and I could really hear how proud he was in his voice and how excited he was for me to have this opportunity that I've worked hard for and to get rewarded this way is awesome. I'm certainly going to enjoy it just as much and I'm going to try and obviously do really well."

Top Photo: Julian Gressel during training at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday. Credit: John Dorton/ISI Photos

7 comments about "Julian Gressel rewarded with his first U.S. call-up".
  1. humble 1, January 22, 2023 at 1:36 p.m.

    Well done to him.  Taking a non-standard path - including the very much under appreciated college route - which - did fine for him - now getting his first USMNT cap.  Keep it going!

  2. frank schoon, January 22, 2023 at 1:48 p.m.

    Happy for him. Liked him when I saw play wing at Atlanta, nice crossing abilities, well versed in soccer... Would have been nice to have an interview, to ask what he learned from DeBoer and Tata. 
    Every American player should be at his level coming out of college ball. Will be interested to see how he compares to American players or those that play in Europe

  3. humble 1 replied, January 23, 2023 at 4:06 p.m.

    Like HS Soccer, College soccer, the system, just does not have time to develop players.  Player can develop, him/her-self whilst in college.  Game-context is difficult to obtain, season is over in less than 90 days, and you are locked as an amatuer, but, it can be done with USL2 and now the USL contracts, and MLS has copied them.  HS Soccer is three months of games, and maybe two months of practice with no games.  College is similar.  The player was developed before college, then he surely had the dedication to continue working on his game, probably while others were partying and socializing.  One day HS and college will do more for players.  The 21st Century plan that is floated about for D1 men, but has little chance to pass.  One day though, and when that happens that is when the sleeping giant will awake, as it is our only hope to open the sport to all socio-economic levels, like our other sports, as the pay-to-play creatins with their opaque and very lucrative 501 3c's have the club scene locked down here keeping the sport more akin to tennis or golf than even hockey, let along american football, baseball, or basketball.  Have a nice day. 

  4. R2 Dad, January 23, 2023 at 5:42 a.m.

    Twelve years is too long to turn resident into citizen. Still, how was he able to go back and forth to Europe, change from student to employee, then changing employers without jeopardizing his green card status? Doing this legally is a huge PITA--thank you, Congress.

  5. humble 1 replied, January 23, 2023 at 3:57 p.m.

    Dude, he married and American.  Before that he would have had a student visa, then a work visa, which would have required many years and vigilance before he was eligible for green card.  Have a nice day.

  6. humble 1 replied, January 23, 2023 at 4:17 p.m.

    excuse me, i was wrong there, 5-years he would have been eligible, I guess, maybe he was not sure that he wanted citizenship, maybe for tax reasons or other, so did not not apply when he was eligble after 5-years with a green card, which is the usual wait, I don't think the student visa counts toward the 5, so it would be 4+5.  Once married a new clock starts, I think, 2-years, so if he was close to 5 at 9 yrs, then got maried, that would take him to 11 or 12.  So yeah, it can be this way.  Still he's here and happy to have him.  Have a nice day.

  7. Grant Goodwin, January 23, 2023 at 3:20 p.m.

    ATL UTD has not been the same since they traded him, and Josef Martinez depended a great deal on him for proper service.  
    -He was indeed professional ready after college.  Interestingly enough, Miles Robinson was ATL UTDs first pick that initial season, but he really did not play much until sometime in 2018.  Yes JG was playing immediately out of college as a later pick. 

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