3. Julian Gressel
Not enough can be said about how valuable Julian Gressel is to the Five Stripes. He is not the flashiest player on the team, but he might be the most important.
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Atlanta has dealt with its fair share of injuries, especially with its starters. Darlington Nagbe, Greg Garza, and Franco Escobar are currently missing time with injuries. Barco and Villalba had their injury troubles earlier in the season, as well. Ultimately, their absences were not detrimental to the team’s success because Gressel was there to step in.
Gressel has played almost every position on the pitch for Atlanta this season. Because of Escobar’s injury, Gressel moved into the right-back position, where he will play for the team for the foreseeable future. The young German should excel at right back. It is similar to the right wing-back position that Gressel played in when Atlanta was in a 3-5-2 formation earlier this season. Since Gressel is right footed, he is able to send his fantastic crosses into the box from that side of the field.
The key aspect of Gressel’s game to watch is the defensive side of things. Can Gressel get back on defense when D.C. is counter-attacking? Can Gressel make one-on-one defensive stops if thrust into that situation? I am very inclined to say yes because he is a talented player who can do just about anything, but we will certainly find out on Sunday night.