Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Atlanta United
2017 MLS Match Preview
BC Place – Vancouver, B.C.
Saturday, June 3 – 5:30 pm ET
WATCH: TSN1,4 in Canada | MLS LIVE in US
Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba and Josef Martinez were just some of the big names that Atlanta United brought in to be on their inaugural roster. They also brought in some more low-profile MLSers like Jeff Larentowicz and Michael Parkhurst to help lead their club in their first season. One player who was brought in well under-the-radar was Julian Gressel.
The German spent four years at Providence College and was named to the NSCAA All-America first team in his senior year. He was selected with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 SuperDraft and has been a fixture in Tata Martino's starting XI ever since. Gressel has started 11 of 12 games and after a two-assist performance on Sunday against New York City FC, is tied for second on the team with four assists.
It is clear that he has been the best rookie so far this year ahead of the likes of D.C. United midfielder Ian Harkes, Minnesota United FC forward Abu Danladi and San Jose Earthquakes fullback Nick Lima. He will look to continue his strong play against a strong Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfield on Saturday.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Whitecaps' up-and-down season continued last week against D.C. United, as they dropped all three points at home to the Eastern Conference bottom-feeders. There were obviously some extenuating circumstances, but it's obvious that the team would have liked to continue their good vibes after winning three of their previous four games.
Vancouver's bad spell continued on Tuesday night, when they fell to the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship semifinals. It should be noted that one player missing from both of these games was defensive midfielder Matias Laba. The Argentine missed the D.C. match due to yellow card accumulation, and the numbers with him missing speak for themselves.
Since Laba joined the team prior to the 2014 season, they have one just one of the 11 MLS games they've started without him and averaged just .5 points per game. In the 103 games he has started, they have won 41 percent of their games and averaged 1.5 points. Expect Laba to be in his regular spot in the midfield against Atlanta, he should have his hands full with Almiron and co.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Brett Levis (ACL tear), M Yordy Reyna (foot surgery), D David Edgar (PCL, MCL tear), F Erik Hurtado (left foot contusion), D Christian Dean (foot injury), M Nicolas Mezquida (right high ankle sprain);QUESTIONABLE – F Bernie Ibini (right hamstring strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-1-4-1): GK: David Ousted – Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey – Matias Laba – Cristian Techera, Tony Tchani, Andrew Jacobson, Christian Bolaños – Fredy Montero
Notes: Kendall Waston has won 81 percent of the aerial duels he has taken part in, the third-highest percentage of any defender with at least 20 aerials.
Gressel has been successful despite being forced to play multiple positions under Martino. He started the season playing in central midfield, roaming box-to-box in front of Carlos Carmona or Jeff Larentowicz and behind Almiron. With Martinez going down with a quad injury, which he could return from this week, Gressel was pushed higher up the field into an attacking midfield role. Lately Gressel has found himself on the right wing.
“It’s more of what the coach wants me to do in the different roles. My roles have changed three or four times now. I’ve gotten good instruction from our coaching staff," said Gressel after Atlanta's 3-1 win vs. NYCFC. "They help me get accustomed to that new position quickly so that I know what they want from me at those positions. I think I am a versatile player coming in. I knew that I was going to get moved around a little bit. I just have to take it on. I don’t see it as negative. That’s probably a big thing as well, just do your job and play well."
Talking specifically about his role on the wing, Gressel said, "It gives me a chance to get in more dangerous spots sometimes or a lot more often I would say."
With Martinez set to return soon, Gressel's spot could change again as Villalba will likely be pushed back out to the wing. Wherever he goes it's clear that the rookie has earned his spot in the starting lineup.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – F Jacob Peterson (right lower leg injury); QUESTIONABLE – F Josef Martinez (left quad injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK: Alec Kann — Tyrone Mears, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza — Carlos Carmona, Jeff Larentowicz — Julian Gressel, Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad — Hector Villalba
Notes: Miguel Almirón has five goals in his last two games for Atlanta United. He scored twice in his first 10 appearances for the club...Alec Kann is averaging 3.9 saves per away game this season, the third-highest of any keeper with multiple starts on the road.
- First matchup.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: Kermit Quisenberry, Jeremy Hanson
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar