Paxton Pomykal is six years younger than Julian Gressel, and has played 8,165 fewer minutes and 82 fewer games of MLS regular season action.
The FC Dallas midfielder has already made his debut for the US.
“Vibes are great. We’ve got two big games ahead of us this week, opportunities for a lot of guys who haven’t had caps yet — like this guy here,” Paxton said with a smile to Gressel Saturday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Gressel also smiled, fully aware of his relatively unique situation. The Vancouver Whitecaps wingback turned 29 last month, making him the third-oldest player in camp behind World Cup veterans Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, and quite a bit older than the typical January newcomer.
All said, he came here as quickly as possible.
“Obviously, it wasn’t possible before because of the citizenship that I just recently got now, finally,” said the German-born veteran, who completed a long road to full American citizenship in November. “For me, it’s an exciting week to be here. I’m just trying to do my best this week and put my best foot forward and get to know everybody. It gives them a chance to get to know me, and what’s coming up.” In the future, I will deal with it then, I will worry about it later.”
Late to the USMNT party
As the words suggest, Gressel plans to stick with the step-by-step mindset that got him here. The upcoming MLS season will be his seventh, and he began earning USMNT buzz back in 2017, when he tallied five goals and nine assists en route to a Rookie of the Year campaign amid Atlanta United’s paradigm-shifting year. The dawn of his personal American experience dates back quite a bit further.
“How old are you?” It’s been a long journey and quite unusual, I think,” Gressel laughed when asked to reflect on his journey to this point.
He first visited the States as an exchange student in high school, and when his football career back home in Germany didn’t unfold quite as he wanted – Gressel spent time in the academy setups at Greuther Fürth and Quelle Fürth and at lower tier sides FC Eintracht Bamberg and TSV Neustadt/Aisch – He returned to try college football with Providence College. Not only did he shine at the NCAA level, but he also met his future wife Casey in Rhode Island, and their marriage eventually earned him the U.S. it. Passport that finally made him eligible for a USMNT call-up.
The fact that he’s remained productive enough on the field — he’s now up to 21 G/60 assists in 184 regular-season appearances, plus another 2 G/2 A and a 2018 MLS Cup triumph on his playoff resume — to stay on the National team radar after all this time, across three different clubs with dramatically different tactical outlooks and rosters with which to back him up, is another impressive metric of his patience and persistence.
“It’s definitely been a long journey, a journey that I’ve enjoyed since I set foot in the US,” Gressel said on Saturday. “I’m in love with the country and that’s why it’s really exciting to be able to represent the US. it. on the field in the upcoming two games. Even my family at home, they are obviously all German and all from Germany – they are very excited.
“I got phone calls, I had a really cool conversation with my grandfather, for example, who is a huge, huge soccer fan, obviously a huge fan of mine. I could really hear how proud he was in his voice and how He was excited for me to have the opportunity I had worked so hard for.
His citizenship was a long time in the making, though it wasn’t an automatic guarantee of a shot with the USMNT.
“Obviously a lot happened, especially after the World Cup, so there was still a bit of uncertainty about what the camp would look like, so I wasn’t sure,” Gressel said. “Then it was a big surprise to find out that at first I was on the preliminary list, then Anthony Hudson called me and asked me if I wanted to come in and it was a great conversation we had initially.”
Respected above all for his incisive delivery from wide areas and set pieces, Gressel is listed as a defender in the January roster, although he thinks he could also get a look at more advanced wide spots. He expects to get most of his responses right back into the 4-3-3 system that interim coach Anthony Hudson is expected to run during Gregg Berhalter’s tenure while the federation conducts an overarching review of the program along with an independent investigation into the Events. Around the last World Cup.
With only a handful of veterans from the Qatar adventure called up this month, the measure of continuity offers an important degree of stability on which Gressel and the other newbies can try to build their case before the full international window in late March, when the Yanks will face Grenada and El Salvador in CONCACAF Nations League play.
“Yes, I think it’s very clear that the style of play, I don’t think it will change too much from what we saw in the World Cup,” said Gressel. “For us players coming in, obviously, we’ve all watched the games – and we’ve not just watched it with half an eye, I think we’ve watched it pretty well. And so we know what roles we need to be in, in terms of From different positions and stuff. And I think in the next few days we’re going to have more in-depth conversations with the coaching staff and we’re going to figure out how many minutes we’re going to play and all that type of stuff because it’s still preseason.
In the mix for 2026?
The USMNT program is in limbo, having entered a painfully awkward state of transition on and off the field. The next World Cup is three and a half years away, and co-hosting responsibilities mean the U.S. They have just advanced to the knockout rounds of Qatar ’22 with one of the youngest squads on the planet, and the competition for places is likely to increase in the build-up to a feverishly-anticipated tournament on North American soil.
Gressel will be 32 by this point. Everything can be completely different, or not. But he doesn’t have to think too much now. Getting the maximum value out of every possible moment from the next few training sessions and the friendlies against Serbia (January 25) and Colombia (January 28) is more than enough to focus on and be thrilled about.
“No matter what happens in the future, I think you can show that you want to be part of the group going forward, which will look like. Again, this is a great opportunity,” he said.
“Now to be a part of that and to be able to represent that on the field as well is something very special, I think. It’s something that we can definitely build on. And I think that everybody who comes in as a player knows what the standard is is, and this is the very top. This is where the US belongs and it’s where we’re trying to get to, obviously, in three-and-a-half years. It’s the beginning of it.”