D.C. United’s high-priced acquisition of Julian Gressel last winter brought a proven scorer and facilitator to Audi Field.

With that move plus two other signings and the return of a genuine striker, United appeared to have assembled the proper pieces to compensate for key departures, such as Wayne Rooney, and compete with the Eastern Conference favorites.

But as MLS heads into the second half of a disjointed season, Gressel is still finding his way and United (2-5-4) is struggling to earn points. The former is not the primary reason for the latter — there are myriad factors — but the midfielder’s production levels have dropped substantially since the trade with high-octane Atlanta.

After averaging five goals and almost 12 assists across his first three pro seasons, the German-born midfielder has posted one apiece in 11 starts. The goal came near the end of a 4-1 defeat at Philadelphia last month, the assist in the Feb. 29 opener against Colorado.

Gressel’s numbers in Atlanta were the product of a proactive style that averaged 66 goals per year, a league high during his tenure. In Washington, tactics are more conservative and personnel less dynamic.

“We certainly think there is more to come from him,” Coach Ben Olsen said ahead of Toronto FC’s visit to Audi Field on Saturday night. “There are some areas [where] he’s what we expected, and there are some areas we need to still see some improvement. … Once that starts to come, I think you’ll start to see a very good version of him.”

Gressel, 26, arrived with high expectations because of his statistics and influence on an Atlanta team that won the 2018 MLS Cup and 2019 U.S. Open Cup. In the trade, United relinquished up to $1.1 million in MLS funds known as allocation money and agreed to increase his salary more than fourfold to an estimated $700,000.

Gressel’s integration into D.C.'s system has not gone smoothly, in part because, amid a stream of injuries, Olsen has asked him to fill various roles.

“It’s certainly been a process,” the 2017 MLS rookie of the year said. “A lot of moving pieces, where it wasn’t easy to define a clear role for me from the start.”

Gressel started the year in central midfield, moved to his natural slot on the right wing and dropped deeper in the formation in becoming a wing back.

“We have really used [Gressel’s] versatility, which is a good thing to have as a player, but it can also hurt you when you’re trying to build relationships, especially as a guy with his profile as a provider,” Olsen said.

In a 2-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls last weekend, Gressel started higher in the formation and pinched inside to become more engaged in the attack, creating chances and sliding into scoring positions.

“It was a bit better,” Gressel said. “We just have to find a way to score, including me. It’s still not there yet. I can be a bit more dangerous myself, create more chances and have more chances.”

Late in the first half last weekend, Ryan Meara made a terrific save on Gressel’s attempt and, on Gressel’s subsequent corner kick, the goalkeeper thwarted Gelmin Rivas’s scorching volley.

United’s nine goals are one fewer than Los Angeles FC’s Diego Rossi and tied with three other teams for second fewest in the league. (Cincinnati has scored seven.) Eight individuals have at least as many assists as United (five).

D.C. has failed to score in four of its past seven matches and recorded multiple goals just twice this year.

Injuries have hurt the cause, but so has the dearth of production from Gressel, striker Ola Kamara and midfielders Edison Flores and Yamil Asad. Flores, the other big winter acquisition, is sidelined with a concussion and facial fracture, suffered in a head-to-head collision Aug. 25. He has yet to register a goal or assist.

Gressel “is at the mercy of the people around him to excel," Olsen said. "That will come as we narrow in on who we are.”

As Gressel seeks to grow into his new team, he is laying deeper roots in the area. He and his wife Casey have settled into a new home in Loudoun County, near United’s future training center, and their first child is due in six weeks.

“We’re excited,” he said, “for the next step in our lives.”

Notes: United received $50,000 in general allocation money from Inter Miami for relinquishing the MLS discovery rights to Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín, the former Juventus star who Friday signed with the expansion team. …

Captain Steven Birnbaum (ankle) is day-to-day, and Russell Canouse (hamstring) remains out. …

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid had another good week of training, Olsen said, suggesting he might return to the lineup after missing four matches because of personal and fitness issues.

Toronto FC at D.C. United

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Audi Field.

TV: WJLA 24/7 News.

Live stream: dcunited.com.

Records: Toronto 6-2-3, 21 points; United 2-5-4, 10 points.

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