In a surprise to absolutely no one, Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel was named MLS’ 2017 Rookie of the Year, the league announced today. Gressel gained over 50% of the average vote among league clubs, players and coaches - with the second-place finisher, Minnesota United’s Abu Danladi, averaging just over 16%.
It was a reward for a stellar first season from the Germany native, who was picked 8th overall in the MLS SuperDraft after a strong career at Providence College in Rhode Island. The 23-year-old scored five goals and nine assists in 32 games (24 starts) for the club and was a key to them reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs in their first year. Though the bulk of his starts have been at midfield, he has been able to shift out at Tito Villalba’s right wing spot and has even come on as an impact sub at times. He would also be slotted at the #10 occasionally, especially with the lineup shifting after Josef Martinez’s injury.
Gressel probably won’t be a name mentioned among those that might get a hefty payday from an overseas club (his dream is to play in Bundesliga someday, though), but in my view he is set up for a nice MLS career. How will he grow, though, in his second year with the club? Will he be able to develop further and avoid a sophomore slump? We can’t wait to find out.