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Columbus Crew finalizing deal to acquire ‘dynamic’ midfielder Julian Gressel

The Crew are closing in on a deal to acquire midfielder Julian Gressel from the Vancouver Whitecaps, sources close to the negotiations confirmed to the Dispatch on Thursday. The Athletic was the first to report that a prospective trade was being finalized. As yet, there is no word on what the Crew is giving up in the swap.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Julian Gressel, left, and LA Galaxy’s Riqui Puig vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Gressel, 29, was born and raised in Germany and played college soccer at Providence. He was MLS rookie of the year in 2017 with Atlanta United and was integral to the team’s 2018 MLS Cup championship. He has played right wingback and midfield. Renowned for his crossing ability, he could also fit as an attacking mid in Crew coach Wilfried Nancy’s 3-4-2-1 formation.

Gressel is in the final year of a contract that has an annual value of $939,781. Reports out of Vancouver say the Whitecaps have been aggressive in their attempt to extend his contract. But Gressel and his wife reportedly had a desire to move back to the East Coast.

Gressel had 15 goals and 35 assists in 98 appearances (88 starts) over his three seasons with Atlanta. He was traded to DC United in January 2020 for $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. He had four goals and 23 assists in 73 appearances (66 starts) in his 2 1/2 seasons in Washington. He was third in the league with 13 assists in 2021.

Gressel, 6 feet 1 and 209 pounds, was traded to the Whitecaps during the summer transfer window last year. He had three goals and five assists through 18 games (16 starts) this season and made some lists of All-Star snubs.

Gressel became an American citizen in November and made his debut with the USMNT in January. He played four Gold Cup games, including a start (and a 90-minute stint) against Canada in the quarterfinals. He played heavy minutes in the semifinal against Panama, which the US lost on kicks. Gressel was fourth in the US order, and he converted his penalty.

The Crew (10-7-6) slipped to sixth place in the Eastern Conference after their 3-2 loss in Portland last weekend. The Whitecaps (8-8-7) are in seventh place in the West. The top nine in each conference make the playoffs. The top four in each conference host first-round playoff games.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the contract of Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room had been officially terminated. There followed reports that Crew center back Milos Degenek is on the verge of being transferred to his former club, Red Star Belgrade. Both had contracts nearly as large as Gressel’s.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew, Vancouver Whitecaps closing in on a notable MLS trade

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