MARIETTA, Ga. — Julian Gressel is playing nice. For now.
Atlanta United’s standout midfielder, who’s racked up 35 assists since entering the league the the MLS SuperDraft three years ago, told media Friday that he will continue training and participating with the team despite voicing displeasure with his contract situation in recent months.
“I’ve said something about it in the past. That stands, that’s valid. There’s nothing really to add at the moment,” Gressel said in a statement prior to his press scrum at the team’s training facility Friday. “Obviously I want a resolution to this as soon as possible, but that’s for my agent and the club to work out. I don’t want this to be hanging over our heads here in preseason. I don’t think that’s fair to our club and our team, and I especially don’t think it’s fair to our teammates.”
Gressel has the fifth-most MLS assists since he joined the league as a rookie and earned four cents shy of $133,000 as his guaranteed compensation in 2019, according to figures provided by the MLS Players Association. He told reporters days after the team’s loss to Toronto FC in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs that he hoped new contract negotiations would be seen as a priority by the club.
“It’s come to a point where I’ve produced a lot,” Gressel said in October. “I’ve played well. I should reap the benefits of that. I want to do that. If it’s here, if the club wants to make me a priority here, I would love to be here. If the club decides not to make me a priority here, I would love to go somewhere where I can be a priority.”
Team vice president Carlos Bocanegra told reporters on a phone call in November that the club had since been in touch with Gressel's agent and explained the two side were in a “holding pattern” until there was more certainty about the details of the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and players union. The CBA expires on January 31, but the club has struck deals for new signings in the meantime, and even extended the contract of Miles Robinson late last season.
Atlanta manager Frank de Boer spoke to media on Monday when Gressel trained separate from the team. De Boer said the training modification was simply down to Gressel arriving later than other players to the team’s training camp and needed extra time to have his physical level examined by club staff. Later, when De Boer was asked how he could fit so many attacking players — including Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, Pity Martinez and Tito Villalba — into a starting XI, De Boer made sure to add in his response how Gressel is also "very important."