Whitecaps acquire star wingback Julian Gressel from D.C. United

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VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps have acquired star German wingback Julian Gressel from D.C. United in exchange for up to US$900,000 in general allocation money.

The 28-year-old has established himself as one of the top playmakers in Major League Soccer since winning the league's rookie of the year award in 2017.

His 58 assists over that period are second most in MLS, trailing only New York City FC attacking midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (66).

He started 16 of his 17 appearances with United this season and led the club with seven assists.

"I'm excited to come to Vancouver and start this next chapter in my career," Gressel said in a statement. "I'm an intense player, it's part of my DNA and something that I always bring to the field. I'm looking forward to playing in front of all the supporters, and helping this club push forward."

United will receive a guaranteed $600,000 in GAM ($400,000 in 2022 and and $200,000 in 2023) and $300,000 in conditional 2024 GAM if Gressel appears in three MLS matches between the 2022 and 2023 MLS seasons.

Gressel will be counted on to improve the playmaking on a Whitecaps team that has just 17 assists this season, tied with Miami for second-fewest in the league.

"We are always looking for opportunities to take our team to the next level and Julian is the perfect fit," Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said in a statement. "He has been on our radar for a long time, and we are very happy we got this deal done.”

"His ability to cross the ball and to set up his teammates in good positions will add additional quality to our group," Schuster added.

Gressel is earning US$969,781 this season, making him the third-highest paid Whitecap behind attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld and striker Lucas Cavallini, according to figures from the MLS Players Association.

The trade appeared to be a surprise to Gressel, who posted "Glad you found out 2 min after I did…" on Twitter in response to a media tweet reporting the deal.

Gressel, who has also played in midfield in MLS, has added 19 goals in 171 regular season appearances.

Gressel joined D.C. on Jan. 21, 2020 after three seasons with Atlanta United ended in a contract dispute.

Atlanta, which Gressel helped win the 2018 MLS Cup and 2019 U.S. Open Cup, sent him to D.C. for $750,000 in guaranteed target allocation money and $350,00 in conditional TAM based on performance metrics.

Allocation money can be used by teams to sign players or get their salaries under the salary cap.

D.C. United appears to be in rebuilding mode. The club will enter Saturday's schedule with a league-low 18 points in 18 games.

Vancouver enters the weekend in 10th place in the Western Conference with 25 points, two back of the Los Angeles Galaxy for the conference's seventh and final playoff spot.

The Whitecaps next play Sunday night as they visit the Portland Timbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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