October 24, 2019 Atlanta - Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) reacts after he scored in the first half during Eastern Conference semifinals of MLS playoffs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, October 24, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Julian Gressel thanks Atlanta United supporters

Julian Gressel said he wants to thank Atlanta United’s supporters and has no bad blood toward the team’s front office after it was is announced Tuesday that was traded to D.C. United.

“I’m happy to go to a situation where I feel I’m really wanted,” he said by phone as he drove to the airport in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday where the team was training. “D.C. made a pretty big offer to trade for me. It’s something I’m thankful for and excited about. It’s a cool feeling. I’m excited for the new chapter in my career.”

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, who received $133,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2019, will reportedly receive a salary of more than $700,000 annually should he sign the four-year contract offered by D.C. United. Gressel declined to confirm the details of his contract.

In what seemed inevitable the past few weeks as contract negotiations between Atlanta United and Gressel’s agent failed to develop, Gressel will leave the team as its all-time assist leader (37) and contributor to its three trophies: the MLS Cup in 2018, which Gressel said “let’s go win” during his first remarks after Atlanta United drafted him 2017, and the Campeones Cup and U.S. Open Cup in 2019.

Gressel said he learned Monday night from his agent that he likely was going to be traded. He received a call from team Vice President Carlos Bocanegra on Tuesday between 8-8:30 a.m. to tell him the deal with D.C. United was agreed to. Gressel is scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night. He is scheduled to meet his new team, which includes former Atlanta United player Yamil Asad, on Wednesday. Gressel said he was looking forward to seeing Asad again, as well as other players with whom he’s been speaking Tuesday.

“It’s a good group of guys and a good coach,” he said. “I’m excited to get to work.”

Gressel said his favorite memories while with Atlanta United are holding the MLS Cup while running toward the supporters after the team defeated Portland at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and starting his first professional game in the club’s first game against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“So many good memories that I will always cherish,” the 26-year-old said.

Gressel said he understands why Atlanta United traded him. Conversations with President Darren Eales and Bocanegra the past few weeks clarified the club’s stance and its reasons, Gressel said. 

Gressel said part of the issue are MLS rules, which can make it difficult for teams to give raises to certain players. He said he hopes the ongoing collective bargaining agreement will result in it being made easier for players to be paid what they are worth. Gressel isn’t the only player who has felt that pinch. Atlanta United sold Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to Tijuana in Mexico presumably because of MLS salary rules and its cap/budget situation.

“The club can only do so much for certain players,” he said. “I hope it was a tough decision for the club. I’m excited that this is resolved.”

For those curious, Gressel said the Gresselmania website will be re-branded and continue because he wants to stay connected to Atlanta United’s supporters and the city.

“I want to keep being a name well-known in the city and use the platform they’ve given me to make a difference in people lives,” he said. “I’m thankful that fans have given me a nickname, and I want it to continue.”

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