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D.C. United trades Julian Gressel to Vancouver

The first notable move of coach Wayne Rooney is a big one.

MLS: New York City FC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Less than three days after D.C. United had announced that Wayne Rooney had returned as head coach, now comes the first substantive move under Rooney’s tenure, as the team traded wingback Julian Gressel to the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for almost $1 million of allocation money, as the team will receive $400,000 in 2022 GAM, $200,000 in 2023 GAM, and an additional $300,000 in 2024 GAM if Gressel makes three MLS appearances between 2022 and 2023. First reported by Steven Goff Friday morning, the news was made official in the afternoon.

“Under our new Head Coach Wayne Rooney, we expect to adjust our tactical shape,” Dave Kasper, D.C. United President of Soccer Operations, said in a team release. “We are focused on bringing in players that fit this new system of play and can help Wayne achieve his on-field vision. We’d like to thank Julian for his incredible service to the club since he joined us from Atlanta in 2020 and wish him all of the best in Vancouver.”

“The value of the offer from Vancouver is one that gives us the flexibility to reshape our roster based on the changes in style that Wayne wants to implement,” Lucy Rushton, D.C. United General Manager, added. “We wish Julian luck in the next chapter of his career in Vancouver.”

The 28-year-old Gressel was acquired by D.C. from Atlanta United in 2020 for up to $1.1 million in allocation money, though it is unknown if Gressel met the performance incentives for Atlanta to receive the remaining $350,000. Gressel had 7 assists in 17 games in 2022 and scored four goals and 23 assists in 73 games with D.C., and has 19 goals and 58 assists over six seasons and 171 games (153 starts) in MLS, and was on a salary budget charge of $914,000 as his contract extension had made him a TAM player.

With Rooney’s decision to change to a four-man backfield (and his apparent preference for recent homegrown signing Jackson Hopkins in midfield), Gressel seemed to be the player who could bring in the best return. Gressel’s departure coincides with the arrival of Ravel Morrison, who played under Rooney at Derby County (and with him at Manchester United from 2010-12) and appears to be finalizing a deal to bring the attacking midfielder to MLS under a TAM deal, with the deal expected to be official in the coming days.