Ah, MLS All-Star ... a whirlwind adventure from which I’m still recovering. For the better part of a week, we at MLS Digital take the show on the road, and in between the onslaught of media appearances, the plethora of events/parties and the actual game itself, every minute is stacked with All-Star festivities.
This year’s host city of Atlanta did it bigger and better than ever before. Thankfully, amidst the endless action, I found some time to spend with Atlanta United’s very own Julian Gressel for this episode of BTW Presented by Heineken. Despite having a pretty jam-packed schedule himself, Julian was more than willing to give me a glimpse inside his life in A-Town and why it has been a perfect fit.
I caught up with Julian at Atlanta United’s training facility, where the MLS All-Stars, including a sizable cross section of his ATLUTD teammates, got some practice in ahead of the big game. It occurred to me that this might be bittersweet for Julian, who is arguably having an All-Star-caliber season himself in the wake of a stellar 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year campaign. But there was nothing but good vibes from the German, who seemed genuinely happy to cheer on his teammates, receiving the warmest of welcomes from dudes like Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Brad Guzan.
From training, we headed back downtown to one of several commitments he had that week; this one involved modeling some MLS swag on a rooftop. He asked me for some pointers, but Julian didn’t need it. He absolutely slayed. Also, mad props to him for agreeing to rock a fleece in 90-degree temps. They call it Hot-Lanta for a reason, mercy.
Up next, the absolute highlight of the day and my entire trip to Atlanta, TBH: spending time in Julian’s neighborhood with his dog, a Labradoodle named Freddy. Now, if you follow Julian on Instagram, you know that he and his lovely fiancé are madly in love, not only with each other, but with their pooch. And it’s easy to see why.
Freddy is a dream — a sweet, fluffy, ball of adorableness. We strolled around his hood in Midtown with Freddy in tow, discussing everything from his transition from Germany to college life in the states, to planning his upcoming December wedding where he will walk down the aisle with his college sweetheart, Casey. The afternoon provided a peek inside his life off the pitch, where he fully embraces life in his new hometown and his role as a fiancé and a doggy daddy.
We found ourselves at his local pub (dog-friendly, of course) where we continued our chat over a few Heinekens before his next scheduled commitment – coaching the Special Olympics Unified game, an event he was passionate about being a part of. And that is indicative of the kind of human Julian is: kind, humble, generous.
When we talked about his success with Atlanta United, he was quick to deflect any praise to his teammates and coaches. When I asked him about his role in the wedding planning, he said he’s willing to do whatever Casey asks of him. And when I thanked him for giving us a few hours of his time during what was an incredibly hectic week, he smiled and said how much he enjoyed it and that he was glad to be a part of it. All in all, a pretty outstanding guy.
As we raised our glasses to ATL we both agreed that we should do this again. Cheekily, Julian suggested we find time this December when Atlanta host the MLS Cup final. I said I’m in ... as long as he brings Freddy.
Cheers to Julian (and Freddy!), and cheers to you. Thanks for watching.