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Toronto FC in talks to acquire Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel

What a pickup the Atlanta United youngster would be

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MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Toronto FC at Atlanta United FC
Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) celebrates after a goal against Toronto FC

Waking The Red has confirmed that Toronto FC have had conversations with Atlanta United about acquiring midfielder Julian Gressel.

Gressel, 26, has been outspoken about wanting a new deal after Atlanta recently exercised the German’s contract option for 2020.

“If I get injured in the first week and I haven’t signed a deal, who knows if I’ll get a new one,” Gressel told The Athletic in November. “This is obviously my future, and the thing I always think about is these are life-changing amounts. We’re not talking about $5 million vs. $7 million. We’re talking about $130,000 or whatever we come up with in a new deal. Those are life-changing amounts in a way for me and my family, and that’s obviously the number one priority for me.”

The Atlanta Untied midfielder made $133,000 USD in 2019 according to the MLS Players Association, and reportedly is seeking a deal above the maximum budget charge next season ($530,000 USD in 2019). The talented right midfielder’s contract is set to expire at the end of 2020, and it’s likely Atlanta cuts ties with Gressel before then.

Since being drafted 8th overall by The Five Stripes in 2017, he has made 118 appearances in all competitions, scoring 20 goals and adding 36 assists. He won MLS Rookie of the Year in Atlanta's inaugural season in 2017.

He also scored against Toronto FC in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, and has scored three times against the Reds in his career.

His contract with Atlanta ends at the end of the 2020 season, so on July 1, he is able to start negotiating a pre-contract agreement elsewhere under the Bosman rule.

As Duane Rollins tweeted out earlier in the day, the Reds are looking to potentially offload goalkeeper Alex Bono’s contract in order to make room for Gressel.

The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio reported last week that “several MLS teams were interested in Bono”, however, it is unclear if that list includes Atlanta at this time—whose starter, Brad Guzan, turns 36 in a few months.

The 2015 first-round pick made just seven MLS appearances for Toronto last season, and with the emergence of No. 1 Quentin Westberg, Bono and the $383,000 USD he made last season may be too much for the Reds to carry forward on their budget if they want to significantly further add to the squad (in addition to a new DP) that made the MLS Cup Final two months ago.

It’s worth noting both Kristian Jack and Gareth Wheeler have put out some of the smoke surrounding Atlanta and Toronto’s conversations, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.