Outside of the obvious in that it literally hasn't gone to plan in the sense that they played just two games of their original 34-game schedule like the rest of MLS, but more worryingly the results on the pitch and performances haven't been what United had in mind. They have just two wins from their 11 matches while the club have scored the joint-second fewest goals in the league, as injuries and poor form have underlined a slow start.
Gressel, one of the club's key additions this offseason, has typified that. He has one goal and one assist across 11 starts as he has bounced across the field to help the club cope with a long list of injuries.
“I see a lot more from him to come," head coach Ben Olsen told reporters during a virtual press conference on Thursday. "There’s some areas he’s been what we expected and there’s some areas we need to see improvement.”
“I agree with him," Gressel added. "It’s been a process, a bit strange at times because it’s a strange year. I’m looking forward to the challenge that’s ahead, I certainly don’t shy away from challenges.”
Gressel and Edison Flores were the club's two key attacking additions in an offseason that saw the club lose Wayne Rooney and Lucho Acosta. And, with Paul Arriola as the face of the franchise, 2020 was set to be a fresh look at D.C. United. But the club's projected attack in preseason hasn't played a single competitive minute together. Arriola has been out the entire year with a torn ACL suffered in preseason and Flores has been limited to just five starts and is currently out with facial fractures.
"Given how the year has played out, we’ve used his versatility," Olsen said of Gressel. "That’s a good thing to have as a player but it can also hurt you when you’re trying to build a relationship, particularly a guy who is a provider. He’s at the mercy of those around him to excel. That will come when we narrow in on who we are.”
United fell 2-0 to the New York Red Bulls last weekend but have a chance to get back to winning ways on Saturday against Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN in Canada), another chance for Gressel to move along in his process.
"It has been a lot of moving pieces, it hasn’t been easy to find a clear role for me," Gressel said. "We’ve had injuries, guys in and out of the lineup and some formation changes. Process is a good word. But the last game it felt a bit better, I played as a center mid and got on the ball a lot more.”
In the long-term, Olsen has no worries about Gressel.
“There’s more to come from him on the soccer side," Olsen said. "In the locker room as a young man and a teammate, he’s been an absolute joy to work with. ... You’ll see a very good version of him. I don’t have any complaints, he’s been a good soldier. Working very hard and has been versatile for us.”