1. Gressel saves the day
For those paying attention, Atlanta’s Starting XI was different from their game the week before against Columbus. Most people, including myself, expected Tata Martino to roll out the same starting line up that easily handled Columbus. However, Franco Escobar picked up an injury right before the game and will be sidelined for a few weeks. Enter Julian Gressel. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year had to slide into the right back spot in place of Escobar for Friday night’s match.
For those unfamiliar with Gressel, he is the definition of a Swiss Army Knife. He can play nearly every single position on the field, and Martino utilizes Gressel in many different spots. Because of injuries, Gressel moves around the field a lot. In the season opener he started as the no. 10, consistently plays on both wings, can move up as a striker, and has featured at right wing back in a 3-5-2 and a box-to-box midfielder when Darlington Nagbe went down with injury.
At this point it is easier to say which positions Gressel hasn’t played this season (it’s just center back, left back, and goal keeper by the way). Gressel did a good job on Friday night, and although Orlando is not the toughest opponent, the Lions played well and proved a good competitor on the night. The young German was great in defense, and did well with pushing up the field and assisting in scoring as he usually does.
As the season progresses and the team continues to deal with injuries both short and long term, look for Gressel to always be on the field. For now, he will remain at right back while Escobar works his way to full fitness. I expect Gressel to do well in this spot, especially considering his success at right wing back for such a significant portion of this season.