VANCOUVER, BC – 2022 was a strange year for Julian Gressel.
Having already played five seasons in the league, he started off the year by going into his third season with D.C. United.
"That feels like years ago," reflected the German-American.
He had settled into the area with his wife Casey and his one-year-old daughter Sophie. But on July 15, there was an unexpected change of plans.
He had been acquired in a trade to Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
"It was just like every other morning, and then I got told that I'm no longer a D.C. United player."
The ‘Caps were ecstatic to get one of the top playmakers in the league – his 58 assists were second best in MLS since he was drafted in 2017.
But for Gressel and his family, they needed a moment to digest what had just happened.
"Thankfully Axel and the club granted me a couple days to get my head around it. As the days went on we started to figure things out."
Coming to Vancouver
After taking time to make their plan, Julian arrived in Vancouver and made his debut on July 23 against Chicago Fire FC. One week later his family came back with him after the away match in Nashville.
Gressel quickly showed his abilities to the ‘Caps faithful. In only his second appearance, he stepped up to bury a penalty to help his new side to victory in the Canadian Championship.
"I was itching for it. As soon as I found out that final was happening, at home, I thought back to my time in Atlanta where we won MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. I wanted that feeling bad, and I was fortunate that I could play that game and it was a great way to begin my tenure here."
He would go on to record two goals and two assists, with the team going 3W-0L-1D in those matches. That included a world-class volley in a win over Seattle.
He showed his versatility throughout his 13 MLS appearances under Vanni Sartini, playing as a wingback, winger, and attacking midfielder.
Now with a half season of time in Vancouver, and a positive late season run, Gressel is looking to build to bigger things in 2023.
"This year felt really long, and it was a lot. Ultimately, it was a challenging year where I grew as a person, as a father, a husband, and a soccer player."
Gressel is a player who fully understands what the team means to the fans, and what success looks like.
"We have a responsibility to engage the fan base that is following this club, by community work, but ultimately what draws people into the stadium is by winning games and being in big games."
And he’s been there before.
His first MLS stop in Atlanta couldn’t have gone much better.
Rookie of the Year. MLS Cup. U.S. Open Cup.
He’s added one trophy to the cabinet in Vancouver already, and now that 2022 has concluded, he has his eyes set on helping elevate the 'Caps to another level.
"I don't want to shy away from a leadership role and I think that I can be a leader for this team. I'm looking forward to taking that next step."
Player Profile Series
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- Isaac Boehmer thankful for experience gained in 2022
- Matteo Campagna grateful for WFC chances in 2022
- Ryan Gauld aims to continue bringing offensive creativity to 'Caps attack
- Ryan Raposo reflects on growth in 2022, career-year, and lessons learnt
- Alessandro Schöpf looks back on whirlwind year
- Cristian Dájome motivates teammates, brings leadership through his joyful personality