Julian Gressel on the ball for D.C. United

On the field, Julian Gressel is one of the best crossers in MLS and a centerpiece of head coach Ben Olsen’s rebuilt D.C. United roster.

Off of it, he’s just like the rest of us, stunned how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has made finding household goods.

“We kind of missed the whole curve of the toilet paper,” Gressel admits, even while revealing he lives in an apartment building directly above a Southwest D.C. supermarket.

“I’ve literally been going there every morning, first thing in the morning,” he said.

Gressel’s search mercifully came to an end Friday, correcting an understandable oversight given how 2020 has been even crazier for the German-born winger than for most of us.

The year began with his previous employers, Atlanta United, admitting Gressel was under-compensated, but didn’t feel they could prioritize fixing the situation while adhering to the league’s salary structure.

Following a trade later in January, Gressel arrived at D.C. United shortly before the team headed to Florida for most of its preseason. His wife joined him in Washington just shy of D.C.’s Feb. 29 season opener against the Colorado Rapids. And after helping the Black-and-Red to their first win a week later, the season was officially suspended two days before his first road trip with the club.

To add another layer, most of Gressel’s family remains in Germany, and some had planned to pay their first visits to his new city later this spring. Global travel restrictions will likely stop them, for the foreseeable future.

“Everybody’s healthy, thankfully, and hopefully it stays that way in my family,” Gressel says. “They had some trips planned to come here in early May, and some maybe in April. The ones in May are still on the bubble. It’s definitely not happening in April.”

Yet, there have been some silver linings to the interruption. In short, the extra time has allowed him to get more involved in unpacking the new apartment and spend some of his fitness regimen learning new terrain.

“It gives me a little bit more time to explore the city, as weird as that sounds,” Gressel says. “You go one way, you go to the water, which is kind of cool. And then when you go the other direction, you get to the capital and the National Mall and all the way to the monuments and the White House.” 

As for team training, what Gressel perhaps misses most is not the technical work, but the chance to build new team bonds. He already knew Yamil Asad from their time together in Atlanta in 2017, and had become friends with Russell Canouse before he was traded. But despite spending most of the preseason with his new club, there’s a lot of work left to gel with others.

“I talked to some guys individually, just to kind of see where their health is at, what they do with their workouts, how their families are and all those types of things,” Gressel says. “We definitely stay in touch, but we’re not supposed to meet up or do anything together. It’s just a difficult way to kind of really get those relationships to the next level.”