It was music to our ears. What an incredible endorsement.
Less than a year after his Spring tour to Italy with Providence, it was evident the experience had stuck with the Germany-born midfielder. He might have been forgiven for forgetting his Rome trip; he had after all just been the eighth pick in the first round of the MLS Superdraft.
He was just starting out life as a pro in the MLS, but his 10-day trip to Europe was fresh in his thoughts and that of his college coach Craig Stewart, who guided the Friars to another stellar season.
The fact GoPlay managed to make a lasting impact on Gressel, coach Stewart and the Friars boys is an honor and what a season they had on the back of it.
“It feels great, it feels like a great honor and I’m very excited about it,” Gressel told GoPlay, when asked about being a first-round pick.
“I wanted to be a professional soccer player and I knew I could achieve it by going to Providence and spending four years there learning.
“I went there with the idea of becoming a professional after my time with Providence. To get an education and to play soccer were the major reasons for me to go there.”
Gressel, who was described by Atlanta United as “the most pro-ready of the possible picks out there in the top 10”, enjoyed a brilliant season with the Friars.
Atlanta United president Darren Eales said: “Julian is a player who we feel is ready to contribute after a very successful college career and his versatility made him appealing.”
Gressel, 23, made 21 appearances for the Friars in which he scored 15 goals and notched six assists in the 2016 season. Gressel, who was product of the SpVgg Greuther Fürth academy, was also named a NSCAA First Team All-American and was a Mac-Hermann Trophy semifinalist.
‘To be honest I think that’s where it all started for Providence last spring’
We asked Gressel just how the experience in Italy, where the Friars visited the AS Roma Academy, helped the team’s togetherness, he added: “We went on a trip to Italy and yes I think it definitely did.
“To be honest I think that’s where it all started for Providence last spring. It shaped our team identity, it shaped who we were in the past year and helped our culture a lot.
Coach Craig Stewart, who has aided his development over the last four years, said: “Julian came in very mature player coming over from Germany but I think he has continued to take his game to the next level every year.
“It took a lot of hard work to do that but he has been very determined to do accomplish his goals and I’m delighted he’s been picked in the first round of the draft.”
‘It helped our culture a lot’
During his senior year, five of Gressel’s 15 goals came as game-winners, including the lone goal in the Friars’ 1-0 victory over St. Johns to win the Big East regular season title. Gressel also scored twice in a 5-4 victory over No. 1 seed and previously unbeaten Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, in which the visitors managed to overhaul a 4-1 deficit.
The Friars were down 4-1 with 21 minutes on the clock to the tournament favorites only for Gressel to power home from close range to start an unlikely comeback. Another three goals completed a stunning fightback and moved Providence into the last 16.
There they saw off Creighton 2-1 before eventually losing in the quarter-finals to North Carolina 1-0 in a double overtime thriller at Fetzer Field. There was no disgrace in defeat against the No 10 ranked team in the country though and the Friars finished their 2016 season with a 15-7 record.
There’s no doubting that the powerful Gressel was an integral part of a successful Friars side and he has accumulated no shortage of honors.
He was named Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year (2016), First Team All-Big East (2016), Big East All-Tournament Team (2016, 2015, 2014) and Big East All-Rookie Team (2013). He also helped the Friars to the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons, reaching the Semifinals of the NCAA College Cup in 2014. The Friars also won the Big East Tournament in 2014.
Good luck in Atlanta from all at GoPlay Sports Tours.