If needed by Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino, Julian Gressel said Thursday he’s ready to play defensive midfielder in Saturday’s game at Philadelphia.
Atlanta United (10-8-5) typically uses Carlos Carmona and Jeff Larentowicz as the two defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation.
However, Carmona picked up a yellow card in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United. As a result of accumulating three yellow cards, Carmona is ineligible to play in Saturday’s game. It will be the third time this season he will be suspended. He was given a red card in the season-opening loss to New York Red Bulls, and was suspended for the first game at D.C. United, a 2-1 loss, on June 21 after accumulating five yellow cards.
Gressel started the season as the holding midfielder, but has since been used in a variety of roles: striker, attacking midfielder and right midfielder as part of his 23 appearances, which includes 18 starts. The rookie from Providence has three goals and six assists.
Gressel couldn’t remember the last time this season that he has played as a holding midfielder in a game. He has practiced in the position several times recently, possibly because of the anticipation of yellow card accumulation. Larentowicz is also one yellow card away from receiving his fifth, which would result in a one-game suspension.
“It’s something I would be able to do right away,” Gressel said. “It’s nothing I have to change or re-think.”
Saturday’s game at Philadelphia (8-12-6) will feature the interesting subplot of two of the front-runners for the rookie of the year facing each other for the first time this season.
While Gressel was tabbed as the favorite by a group of reporters for MLSSoccer.com several weeks ago, Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott is also a strong contender. The 21-year-old defender and native of England was selected No. 77 in this year’s SuperDraft after playing at West Virginia. Gressel was selected No. 8. Elliott has 22 appearances, including 21 starts, with one goal.
Martino has options other than Gressel. He could play Kevin Kratz or Chris McCann, or pair Kratz and Gressel together.
Martino said after Wednesday’s game that he wanted some time to analyze the team’s performance before making a decision. He is scheduled to speak to the media again Friday.
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