VANCOUVER, BC – You can call him The Distributor, Deliverer of Dimes, Crown Jules or even Gressky, it doesn’t matter to Whitecaps playmaker Julian Gressel. He’s all in on setting up his teammates and contributing in any and all fashion.

The Whitecaps are off to a slow start to the season with an 0-2-2 record in MLS play, but Gressel has come out flying and sits tied for second in MLS with three assists this season. 

Across all competitions Gressel has four assists. Excluding the own goal FC Dallas scored in Vancouver, Gressel has earned an assist on every Vancouver MLS goal this season. 

What’s been the key to the quick start for Gressel?

“It’s been focusing on what I’m good at,” Gressel told reporters following training earlier this week. “If it’s a dead ball for example like we did in LA or before with Javain (Brown), those are situations where the ball doesn’t move where everything is kind of instruction. I can really focus on delivering a good ball, and I was able to do that a couple of times. (I’m) just trying to continue that, like I said, trying to get looks as a whole team. Maybe even myself trying to get into scoring opportunities as well, not just assists, chip in a goal here or there. We’ll try and get goals no matter how they come.” 

Gressel’s blistering start to the campaign has come at the perfect time as he enters MLS free agency at the conclusion of this season. Negotiations on a long term contract extension between the Whitecaps and Gressel remain without a final solution. 

Vancouver Whitecaps CEO and Sporting Director, Axel Schuster offered these comments when pressed on contract extension talks during preseason training camp in January.

“It’s in the making,” Schuster told Har Journalist. “I cannot say anything other than that. It doesn’t help if I think it’s almost finished as long as the other party is not thinking the same way. I think that from our side most of the things are done.”

During his weekly chat with members of the media on Thursday, Schuster provided a fresh update on contract talks with Gressel.

“Yeah, most of the things have been discussed,” Schuster said via zoom. “He has had some challenging weeks, and we have also been very respectful for that, because he has been on the road longer than anyone else. He went from Spain straight to the national team, then straight from the national team to Palm Springs, and just only arrived back after that. He’s moving here in Vancouver and taking care of his family. I think we’re now finally getting to the right time where you can also ask him to give us some hours of his time to discuss a few of those open things. We will inform everyone if we have come to the next step.”

Understandably Gressel isn’t eager to discuss talks between his agent and the Whitecaps. 

“I don’t really want to speak about it too much,” Gressel explained to Har Journalist. “It’s been good from both sides. We’re continuing to work, but I’m fully focused on playing and getting our season in the right direction with a win. I’ll let my agent handle it with the club. I’m not really too worried about it at the moment.”

In 13 MLS appearances following a mid-season trade from DC United last season. Gressel added two goals and two assists in 973 minutes of MLS action with Vancouver. 

While it’s not done right now, is a contract extension with Vancouver nearing completion? 

“Again, I’m just going to leave it at what I said,” Gressel added. “I think there’s been good communication between the club and us. We’re continuing to do that off the field. I’m not really a part of those conversations too much. I’m letting my agent kind of take that. I’m just focused on playing.”

A player entering free agency has a lot more to play for than just the team he or she represents. They’re competing to secure financial security that could potentially set themselves and their family up for the future. 

The 29 year-old Gressel has bet on himself in a similar way that New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge did last season. Judge entered the 2022 season without a contract extension. Judge would go on to set an American League record with 62 home runs. The Bronx Bombers signed Judge to a nine-year contract extension worth $360 million.

While Judge and Gressel won’t earn a similar salary they do have one significant commonality. Both players entered their respective free agent season without a long term deal from their club. 

In 2022, Gressel earned a salary of $969,781.

If Gressel continues to dish out dazzling dimes, how much could the cost for the Whitecaps to sign Gressel increase?

“That’s for other people to decide… not for me,” Gressel explained. “I’m trying to be the best that I can be, week in and week out on the field. That’s providing assists, sometimes more defensive work, sometimes going forward. It’s who I am on the field and that won’t change no matter what the situation is off the field. We’ll kind of see how it continues.”

While the price tag to sign Gressel to a long term extension could rise, that’s not the only thing that could be at play.

“Look, there’s other things we have already pre-discussed,” Schuster told reporters via zoom on Thursday. “It’s not only price tags, it’s also terms, also some additional questions. You know that he wants to be a leader. He’s interested in what direction this club has. What are our next steps, what do we have in mind other than re-negotiating with him in future. This is a conversation that takes one or two lunch, dinners with him. We will find the time, don’t worry.”

Not only has Gressel continued to thrive with the Whitecaps, but he has also earned the attention of the U.S. Men’s National team. After becoming an American citizen in November, Gressel earned a call-up to the U.S. Men’s National team camp in January. Gressel made his debut for the U.S. on January 25 vs Serbia and picked up an assist.

Growing up in Germany, Gressel never imagined he would one day represent the U.S.

“I can’t really say it was a dream highlight for my life,” Gressel said. “It never really was a possibility before last November. It never really entered my vision, my dreams in that sense. I’ve always dreamt of playing for Germany and now with the circumstances of how my career has turned out. It turned into playing for the United States, it was amazing. It was a lot of fun, it was a very cool environment to be in and see how things are done. It was awesome. The U.S. is my home. I’ve been here now for ten years. I’m very proud to be able to represent the U.S. on the field and doing what I love.”

As the U.S. gets set for a pair of Concacaf Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvardor on Friday and next Monday, Gressel was not among the players named to interim head coach Anthony Hudson’s U.S. roster. 

“I don’t know,” Gressel told Har Journalist when asked why he wasn’t called up. “That’s a question for Anthony Hudson and all those guys that make the decision.”

“No, nobody spoke with me,” Gressel added. “I don’t think they have to justify and tell every player why they aren’t calling them in. That’s part of the business. I can only focus on my work with the Whitecaps and what I do here, week in and week out on the field in MLS. We’ll see, hopefully I’ll be part of it in the future because it’s an environment I’d like to be in.”

Wherever the future takes Gressel, he is going to need somewhere to live. Gressel and his wife Casey recently put their house up for sale in Virginia. Whether or not the Gressel family decides to enter the high stakes housing market in Vancouver remains to be seen. 

“I’m not sure if I’m allowed to buy a house right now with the visa,” Gressel said. “We put the house up for sale because DC was a market I’ve played in and now I’m not playing there anymore and we don’t really foresee ourselves going back there, since there’s no family ties or anything like that, so we decided to put the house up for sale. We’ll see what comes next.”

While he is in Vancouver, Gressel enjoys going for walks with his family around his False Creek neighbourhood, visiting local restaurants, and taking his daughter on the aquabus.

Gressel and the Caps return to the pitch on Saturday when they travel to the midwest to take on Minnesota United FC.


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