CARSON, Calif. — Gregg Berhalter finds the idea of Julian Gressel playing for the U.S. national team most enticing, even if he won't be eligible until after the upcoming Concacaf World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Gressel, now with D.C. United following a Jan. 21 trade from Atlanta United, last summer expressed interest in suiting up for the Yanks, but he won't be eligible for U.S. citizenship until December 2021, roughly 11 months before the World Cup in Qatar will begin.
“We'll wait for him, no problem,” Berhalter said of the 26-year-old Thursday as his team prepared for Saturday's friendly against Costa Rica. “We'll wait.”
The German-born Gressel, who grew up in a Bavarian town and came to the U.S. to play soccer at Providence College, married an American woman on Dec. 31, 2018. He has said he considers the U.S. “my home.”
“It's definitely crossed my mind,” Gressel told The Athletic in November about his U.S. national team aspirations. “It'd be awesome, it'd be really cool to be a part of [the 2022 World Cup].”
The MLS's 2017 Rookie of the Year can play anywhere in central midfield or on the right flank. He scored 15 goals with 35 assists in 98 games, 88 of them starts, in three seasons with Atlanta, plus two goals and two assists in nine playoff games. He was a key part of the club's 2018 MLS Cup triumph.
His new D.C. teammate Paul Arriola, yet to work with him, says Gressel could be a real asset for the US.
“I think he's a tremendous player,” Arriola told MLSsoccer.com. “The culture that we have here now under Gregg, that we've built over the course of the last year, it's a warm welcome. It's a warm welcome for everyone. Gregg is really good about the good guys and bringing in players that don't only make an impact on the field, but off the field. Hopefully, he fits that criteria and he's able to suit up for the U.S. one day.”
Berhalter is keenly interested, and says he has spoken about the topic with Gressel's representatives. If and when Gressel does join the UMSNT picture, he would be the latest in a string of additions under Berhalter that also includes Dutch-born right back Sergino Dest and Colombian-born FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira.
“Anytime a player with his quality has talked openly about wanting to be a part of the national team program, it's flattering for us and what we're doing,” Berhalter said. “And it's nice to have guys like Sergiño Dest, Jesus and Julian wanting to be part of what we're doing.”