When Julian Gressel was selected at #8 in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, some experts were surprised. I’ll admit that I was. Most mock drafts had Gressel going lower in the first round, anywhere from 10-20. I also guessed that Atlanta United might not be as interested due to Gressel’s international status, with international slots at a premium for the Red & Black.
Another question was concerning where Gressel will best fit at the next level. During his career at Providence, he played everywhere in midfield and even lined up as a target forward during his senior season. All of that uncertainty led to some thoughts about how Gressel would fit in with Atlanta United and how much playing time he might get in 2017 with the first team.
So far in preseason, Gressel has done everything he can to put himself in the mix with the first team. He assisted on Josef Martinez’s goal in Chattanooga and he put in the best shift off the bench in Saturday’s loss to Columbus.
It was his effort against Columbus that sold me on the impact Gressel could have for the first team in 2017. As a more physical attacking midfield option, he can help where teams physically try to prevent Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba from impacting the game. Against Columbus, he came back to knock a Crew player off the ball to win it and he immediately launched a counterattack. Later, he earned a free kick after drawing contact, and took it quickly to spring Jacob Peterson on a counter.
Depending on how the starting lineup shakes out, right now Julian Gressel is in the mix to be the top attacking option off the bench. His versatility will likely make him a key part of the game day 18-man roster because he can play anywhere in the attack. He is physically ready for MLS and his soccer IQ will allow him to fit in with more experienced teammates.
At #8, Julian Gressel could end up being a steal for Atlanta United if his development continues.