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New U.S. citizen Julian Gressel earns first national team call-up

Julian Gressel played two and a half seasons for D.C. United before being traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps last summer. (Tony Quinn for The Washington Post)
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Over six MLS seasons, Julian Gressel made a strong case to receive a call-up to the U.S. men’s national soccer team someday. Problem was, he wasn’t yet a U.S. citizen.

That part changed in November, and with the U.S. program entering a new World Cup cycle, Gressel was invited to the first training camp of the year, three people familiar with the matter said Friday.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is scheduled to name an MLS-heavy roster Wednesday and open camp Jan. 21 in Carson, Calif. In their first matches since the World Cup, the Americans will play Serbia on Jan. 25 in Los Angeles and Colombia on Jan. 28 in Carson.

The European-based players who formed the core of a squad that advanced to the round of 16 in Qatar last month are not available because the camp and matches fall outside FIFA’s international window. MLS teams opened training camps last week ahead of the Feb. 25 season openers.

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The U.S. winter camp is an annual tradition that allows the coaching staff to evaluate players who otherwise probably would not be considered when the full squad is available. In Gressel’s case, this marks the first time he is eligible for an invite.

The German native starred at Providence College and excelled with Atlanta United and D.C. United before moving to the Vancouver Whitecaps last summer. Through his 2018 marriage to an American, Gressel became eligible for citizenship.

In his career, Gressel has been among MLS’s top right-side attackers. He has served as a forward, wing and wing back, recording 21 goals and 60 assists. In 2017, he was voted MLS rookie of the year. Two years ago, Gressel’s 13 assists for United were third in MLS. Last season, splitting time between D.C. and Vancouver, he posted two goals and nine assists in 30 appearances.

Whether he has a long-term future with the U.S. program, though, is unclear. At 29, he is much older than almost all players who receive first international call-ups.

Gressel is expected to be among several fresh faces in U.S. camp. Another selection, according to two people close to the situation, is Sam Rogers, a 23-year-old defender for Norwegian club Rosenborg. (Like MLS, the Norwegian league does not play during winter months.)

Assistant coach Anthony Hudson is overseeing camp while the USSF continues evaluating the program and weighing whether to retain Gregg Berhalter, whose contract to coach the team expired Dec. 31. The sport’s domestic governing body is also awaiting the results of an independent investigation into a 1991 incident in which Berhalter admitted to kicking his future wife during a dispute when they were college freshmen.