Trading

D.C. United trading Julian Gressel to Vancouver Whitecaps

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Wayne Rooney’s reshaping of D.C. United’s roster began with a big splash Friday, when wing back Julian Gressel was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps for up to $900,000 in financial considerations.

United will receive $400,000 in general allocation money this year, $200,000 next year and, should Gressel make just three appearances for the Whitecaps in 2022-23, D.C. would collect another $300,000. General allocation money can be applied toward new acquisitions and retaining current players.

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Gressel, 28, led United in assists the past two seasons with 20 in 51 games, and he ranked third in MLS in 2021 with 13. Under Rooney, however, his position is being phased out as United shifts from a three-man back line with wing backs to a four-man formation.

“We expect to adjust our tactical shape,” Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in a statement. “We are focused on bringing in players that fit this new system of play and can help Wayne achieve his on-field vision.”

Rooney could have pushed Gressel higher in the attack, where he excelled with Atlanta from 2017 through 2019. But the new boss has high hopes for Jackson Hopkins, an 18-year-old homegrown midfielder from Fredericksburg who, in United’s first match since the coaching shake-up, received high marks Wednesday in his second career start.

Gressel was one of the few D.C. players with high trade value. Carrying a base salary of more than $900,000, he was third on the team payroll and in the last year of a guaranteed contract. (The team owned an option in 2023.) His departure opens space on the senior roster.

Rooney, the former English superstar who played for United in 2018 and 2019, was hired this week to revive a club that, with a 5-10-3 record, is last in the 28-team overall standings and in danger of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Though he can’t begin working on the sideline until he receives a work visa in a few weeks, Rooney is actively involved in match preparations and roster decisions.

United, which has not won a playoff game since 2015, is planning to make several moves before the transfer and trade window closes Aug. 4.

With Rooney’s connections and influence raising United’s international profile, D.C. has been linked with several players from overseas. Attacking midfielder Ravel Morrison, who played for Rooney at Derby County in England’s second division, was scheduled to arrive in Washington this weekend for a possible deal, three people close to the matter said.

United is awaiting one incoming player signed before Rooney’s hiring: Chilean attacker Martín Rodríguez, who has yet to receive a work visa.

To acquire Morrison, United would use targeted allocation money, a status level second to designated player. (Rodríguez is also a TAM player.)

Each team is allowed three high-priced designated players. United’s only DP is Greek attacker Taxi Fountas (10 goals in 12 games), but team officials say they are aiming to acquire one or two this summer. It’s possible the club would leave one slot open for an offseason upgrade.

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With Gressel leaving, both first-choice wing backs are no longer available. Last week, left-sided Brad Smith tore an ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.

Rooney’s plans began to come to light during Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew at Audi Field. The team lined up with four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders and one striker. Under interim coach Chad Ashton — and his predecessor, Hernán Losada — United had been playing with three in the back and, lately, two up front.

Gressel missed Wednesday’s game because of a gluteus injury.

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