Julian Gressel ’16 Finds Home with Atlanta United
By Scott Jarosz ’21
After what was an outstanding career as a midfielder on the Providence College Men’s Soccer Team, Julian Gressel ’16 has quickly become one of the top rising stars in Major League Soccer. Born in Neustadt an der Aisch, Germany, Gressel came to the United States in 2013 to join the Friars’ soccer team. Gressel’s impact on the team was felt immediately as he started all 22 games for the Friars in his freshman season. Over that span of time, Gressel led the team in goals, assists, points, and shots on goal. In his rookie season, Gressel achieved a Big East Rookie of the Week honor and was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team and All-Big East Second Team.
Gressel continued to produce for the Friars in his sophomore season on the team in 2014. During the 2013-14 season, Gressel scored five goals and added five assists. He continued his steady play into the Big East Tournament, receiving Big East All-Tournament Team recognition. In 2015, Gressel scored five goals in his third season at PC. He again received numerous accolades including being named to the Big East All-Tournament Team and the All-Big East Second Team. However, during his senior season in 2016, Gressel truly played to his full potential. Gressel netted an outstanding 15 goals in just 22 games played, 6 assists, and 36 total points. His incredible performance throughout the season ultimately led to an NCAA tournament berth for the Friars, which included an incredible 5-4 comeback win over No. 1 seed University of Maryland. Gressel added two goals in this second-round game of the tournament, and finished second all-time in goals, assists, and points among all PC players.
Upon the conclusion of his career at PC, Gressel entered the 2017 MLS Super Draft where he was the highest Friar ever selected. He was picked up by Atlanta United FC as the 8th overall draft pick in the draft.
In his rookie season with Atlanta, Gressel showed no signs of being overwhelmed with the conversion from college to professional soccer. In his first season with Atlanta United, Gressel appeared in 32 games, scoring five goals and adding nine assists. This stellar first season led to him being named the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year. Atlanta, however, fell short in the MLS Playoffs to Columbus Crew SC in the 2017 season. Gressel and Atlanta United made sure that they would not fall short the following season, and showcased their dominance throughout the 2018 season.
In his second season in the MLS, Gressel scored four goals and recorded 14 assists to help lead his squad to its first MLS Cup victory. Atlanta beat the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup Final by a score of 2-0. This was a fitting way for Atlanta United to cap off its second season in the league as no other MLS team showcased nearly the same level of quality and consistency throughout the season. Gressel was an integral part of this quality and consistency as a rock-solid midfielder.
Through just two seasons in MLS, Gressel boasts a Rookie of the Year award and an MLS Cup victory. The PC graduate has shown no signs of slowing down as he is one of the top young midfielders in the league.
Friars in the Pros
As Providence College athletics are Divison I, the Friars have seen many of their athletes go on to play professionally in their respective sports. Three writers gave updates on Friars who play on professional soccer, hockey, and basketball teams.
By Jack Belanger ’21
With their recent success in the Big East, Providence has seen multiple Friars appear in the National Basketball Association and other professional basketball leagues.
Marshon Brooks ’11 played four seasons at PC from 2007-2011, averaging 24.6 points per game (ppg) his senior year. He was the 25th pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics but was immediately traded to the Brooklyn Nets. After a promising rookie year where he averaged 12.6 ppg and was named to the NBA all-rookie second team, Brooks saw his playing time decreased dramatically and struggled to find a consistent role in the NBA. After the 2013-2014 season he signed with Emporio Armani Milano, an Italian basketball team.
Ben Bentil ’18 played only two seasons for the Friars. Bentil broke out his sophomore year in 2015-2016, averaging 21.1 ppg and 7.7 rebounds per game. He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
After playing in three preseason games, Boston waived Bentil and he spent most of the year in the NBA D-league, the NBA’s minor league. Bentil managed to make his NBA debut for the Dallas Mavericks on Mar. 1 and became the first person born in Ghana to play in the NBA. Bentil currently plays for the Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket in the Ligue de Nationale de Basket in France where he is averaging 12.4 ppg.
Kris Dunn ’16 is one of the best players to come out from Providence College in a long time. Dunn played four seasons for PC (2012-2016), averaging 12.8 ppg and 5.8 assists per game, and was named the Big East Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. Dunn was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. After playing limited minutes during his rookie year, Dunn was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he has broken out, averaging 10.6 ppg and has become the team’s starting point guard through 18 games.
By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
The Providence College Men’s Hockey Team has produced many professional athletes over the last several years. The Friars won the National Championship in 2015, and that roster contained four players that have already seen National Hockey League ice time.
Forwards Noel Acciari ’16, Mark Jankowski ’16, Brandon Tanev ’16 and goaltender Jon Gillies ’16 were part of the high-caliber roster.
Acciari had 32 points in 41 games during the Friar’s championship run, and on June 8, 2015, the undrafted forward signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins. Acciari, a Johnston, Rhode Island native, has seven points in 57 games with Boston as of Nov. 26.
Jankowski played his senior year at PC, scoring 40 points in 38 games, an improvement from 27 in 37 during the championship season. Jankowski was drafted 21st overall by the Calgary Flames in 2012 and has three goals and an assist in 16 games.
Tanev was signed by the Winnipeg Jets in March 2016 and has eight points in 76 games with the team as of this past Sunday.
Gillies was drafted 75th overall by Calgary in 2012. He had a goals against average of 2.01 and save percentage of .930 in the Friars’ championship year.
Other notable alumni are current Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach ’01 and long time NHLer Hal Gill ’97. Both were defensemen; Leach played 70 career NHL games while Gill amassed an impressive 1,108.
Perhaps one of the best-known Friars is long time Men’s Hockey head coach and athletic director Lou Lamoriello ‘63. A native of Johnston, Rhode Island, Lamoriello had a lengthy career in Friar athletics before winning three Stanley Cups as the general manager of the New Jersey Devils from 1987-2015. He is currently general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
By Joe Myko ’19
The most recent Providence College alumnus to break into the world of professional soccer is Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel ’16 who was named Major League Soccer’s AT&T Rookie of the Year in November, after scoring an impressive five goals with nine assists in his debut season. The German-born midfielder is ranked third in the college’s all-time list of goal scorers, having netted 30 times for the Friars, and comes in at second for career assists with 26.
Ryan Maduro ’09 is another former Friar who has followed up his time at college with a successful career in soccer. The attacking midfielder scored 14 and assisted 22 goals during his time at Providence, before going on to sign with various clubs, including Iceland’s first division side Flykir and MLS’s New York Red Bulls, who he made his professional debut for in 2012.
Once former Friar Chaka Daley ’96 hung up his cleats in 1999, after having played for various professional sides including the MLS’s New England Revolution, he decided to return to PC to take up a coaching role enjoying a successful 11 years as manager from 2000-2011.
Midfielder Andrew Sousa ’10 was drafted by MLS’s side New England Revolution in 2011, before going on to enjoy an extensive career thus far, most notably at the likes of Portugal’s Operário (third division), Iceland’s Fylkir (first division), and Canada’s Ottawa Fury (who operate in the second division of the North American soccer leagues).
Chris Konopka ’06 has enjoyed a successful and wide-spread career since leaving Providence, having signed with various professional outfits including MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC and Portland Timbers as well as the Scottish Premiership’s Ross County. Konopka played 21 times for Toronto FC between 2013-15, becoming an integral part of the club’s first playoff appearance in club history in 2015. The New Jersey native also holds records with Toronto FC for the most regular season game wins with 11, as well as the best single-season win percentage for any goalkeeper in the club’s history with 59.5 percent.