Atlanta United attacking midfielder Julian Gressel won MLS Rookie of the Year honors for 2017, the league announced on Tuesday. The Five Stripes selected Gressel with the eighth overall pick in this year’s SuperDraft.
Julian Gressel Wins 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year
The 23-year-old finished his first season in the league as one of its most prolific young attackers. His nine assists in 2017 ranks as the third highest total for a rookie in MLS history. The previous two, Andy Williams and Clint Mathis, both registered their totals in 1998 with 12 and ten respectively.
Gressel made an unexpectedly immediate impact on an Atlanta team boasting plenty of dynamic attacking players. He started the first six games of the season and ended up appearing in 35 of the team’s 37 games across all competitions. His first helper came in Atlanta’s second game of the year, a 6-1 blowout win over fellow expansion outfit Minnesota United.
Among rookies, Gressel finished as one of just two rookies to log over 2,000 minutes during the 2017 regular season. Only Philadelphia‘s Jack Elliott (2,621 minutes) registered more minutes than Gressel’s 2,048 this year. He also went the full 120 minutes in Atlanta’s first ever postseason outing, a penalty shootout loss to Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference knockout round.
The young German secured a fairly overwhelming percentage of voting for the award. Averaging votes among current players, media and technical staff from MLS’ 22 teams, Gressel garnered a total of 53.08 percent. To put that in perspective, Minnesota United striker Abu Danladi finished second in the overall voting but received an average vote of just 16.22 percent.
Before his rookie campaign in MLS, Gressel starred at Providence College where he made 83 appearances and notched 30 goals and 26 assists. Last season, he helped the Friars make it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. It included a 5-4 upset of top overall seed Maryland, a game in which he scored two goals. Gressel’s four tallies earned him the Golden Boot for the tournament.
What It Means
Gressel taking home this honor doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Throughout the 2017 season, he continuously made the case for the league’s Rookie of the Year award with his prolific play as part of Tata Martino’s tactical setup. Gressel demonstrated immense versatility all year, getting deployed all over the midfield in a variety of roles. Finishing fifth on the team in goals behind Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba, Miguel Almiron and Yamil Asad is no small feat. It reinforces the fact that the Gressel has a bright future ahead of him.