Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel celebrates his apparent goal during the second half against Orlando City Sunday, May 12, 2019, in Atlanta. The goal was taken off the board after review, but Atlanta United held on to win the game 1-0.
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Atlanta United’s Gressel traded to D.C. United

Atlanta United traded Julian Gressel to D.C. United on Tuesday, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.

In exchange, Atlanta United acquired $650,000 in Targeted Allocation Money in 2020 and $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money in 2021. The total could reach $1.1 million with another $350,000 in Targeted Allocation Money if goals are reached. 

Gressel, 26, scored 15 goals and added a franchise-high 35 assists the past three seasons in helping the club win the MLS Cup in 2018 and the Campeones Cup and U.S. Open Cup in 2019. He scored the second-most goals (6) on the team last season and led it in assists (12).

Atlanta United selected Gressel with the No. 8 pick in the first round of the 2017 draft. Gressel was in the last year of a contract he signed as a rookie and has wanted a new contract from the club. He said as early as March last year that he would love to sign a long-term contract with the club. In November, he said he was frustrated that there had been little progress.

According to Goff, Gressel’s salary will increase from $133,000 guaranteed compensation in 2019 to more than $700,000 annually, and he will receive a four-year contract.

The Gressel trade continues a tumultuous offseason for Atlanta United under President Darren Eales and Vice President Carlos Bocanegra as they continue to remake the team.

They traded Darlington Nagbe to Columbus in November. Nagbe wanted to play closer to where he grew up in Ohio. The team has yet to buy or trade for Nagbe’s replacement. Manager Frank de Boer said he wants one.

Two weeks ago the team sold Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to Tijuana in Mexico’s first division. A reason has yet to be given by the club. The team acquired Fernando Meza from Necaxa and Tijuana as Gonzalez Pirez’s replacement.

Nagbe was second last season in minutes played (2,825) in MLS, Gonzalez Pirez third (2,701) and Gressel fourth (2,693).

Atlanta United is in training camp in Bradenton, Fla. Gressel traveled with the team to Florida. D.C. United will train in the Washington area this week before moving its camp to Clearwater, Fla. next week.

Atlanta United will open its season at Motagua in Honduras in the Champions League on Feb. 18.

Gressel was Josef Martinez’s main assist provider of goals the past three seasons. Gressel’s ability to hit curling crosses from the right into the sweet spot behind an opponent’s back line and in front of their goalkeeper was unmatched by other players on the team and could be done consistently as well by few others in MLS.

Manager Frank de Boer recently described Gressel as valuable on the first day of training camp last week.

Gressel was a fan favorite among Atlanta United supporters because of his production no matter what position (he started at least different spots under two managers), his interactions with them on social media and his Gresselmania website.

That Gressel was traded may not be too much of a surprise, particularly as the negotiations dragged for the past few months.

In November, Bocanegra described Gressel as valuable and said the team was waiting on the results of the new collective bargaining agreement before they extended him a new contract proposal but that they were hopeful. A few weeks ago, when asked about Gressel’s status, Bocanegra said the club was having internal discussions. Eales later went on a local radio station and said something similar to Bocanegra’s comments in November. Neither ever said that Gressel would definitely receive a new contract.

Gressel tried to quiet the talk last week in his first interview ahead of the coming season. He said he didn’t want to be a distraction to the team or his teammates and didn’t want to discuss his contract status.

Selling Gressel leaves Brooks Lennon, acquired in a trade from Real Salt Lake, Franco Escobar and Mo Adams as candidates to to start at right wingback. As a right midfielder, a position Gressel also has played, the team has Hector Villalba. Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco can also play out wide.

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