MLS Spotlight: Future bright for RSL’s Gil

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 Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com

By THOMAS FLOYD

Luis Gil is well aware of the hype. As a 17-year-old whose uncanny skill and composure on the ball has drawn the attention of such European titans as Arsenal and Real Madrid, it would be hard not to be.

But he's not buying into it. Not yet.

While some pundits have pegged Gil as the U.S. national team's most enticing prospect in some time — a true No. 10 — the Real Salt Lake midfielder is quick to say he's not prepared, downplaying the idea of making his senior international debut in the near future. As he puts it, "I'm not trying to rush myself."

Yet for much of the 2011 season, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has put his trust in the unassuming 5-foot-8 teenager with vision, touch and technical poise that belie his age.

Gil hasn't disappointed. Starting 14 of the 25 matches in which he's appeared while scoring two goals, the Mexican-American from Garden Grove, Calif., has blossomed in his second MLS campaign for a Salt Lake squad that went 15-11-8 to secure the league's third-best record.

"He could be a player that we eventually build a national team around," said Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman, a U.S. national team regular. "I think he's that good. The future is bright, and as a U.S. Soccer fan, it's exciting to see a player like that come and be committed to the U.S."

Gil's star began to rise in 2009, when his standout play at the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria led to recognition as U.S. Soccer's Young Male Athlete of the Year and heightened attention from foreign scouts. His playing style drew comparisons to the likes of Cesc Fabregas — high praise, indeed.

With an offer from Arsenal in hand, Gil decided to put his European ambitions on hold. He signed with MLS in February 2010 and was assigned to Kansas City via a weighted lottery before promptly being shipped to Salt Lake.

Playing time, however, was hard to come by his rookie year. Gil didn't log a single minute of league action for Salt Lake, making just two appearances in all competitions and spending three months on loan to second-tier AC St. Louis.

As tough as it was to watch from the sidelines, Gil now acknowledges it was for the best.

"I really didn't get that much pressure because RSL kept me on the low key," Gil recalled. "And I'm thankful for that. I didn't really have to worry about having to do too much my first year. It's frustrating not playing, but it kept me away from all that pressure and hype and it just let me develop easily and slowly.

"Looking back, I don't feel like I was ready back then. I was physically and mentally not ready. I'm still young, I'm still growing."

For a while, it seemed like 2011 was going to be more of the same for Gil. When Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales suffered a broken ankle in May, though, the injury created a substantial void in central midfield.

In stepped Gil, who had just 24 minutes of MLS experience to his name when Morales went down. He received his first start June 11 at Philadelphia and proceeded to get the nod in 10 of Salt Lake's next 15 league fixtures.

"It obviously sucks to see your teammate go down like that, but that's what we have our bench for," Gil said. "It did open the door for me to get in and gave me the opportunity."

Gil bagged his first goal in a 3-0 win over New York on Aug. 6, an opportunistic, something-out-of-nothing strike from beyond the penalty area. He notched his second tally in a loss to Houston two weeks later.

Kreis has tested Gil's versatility since Morales returned in late September, deploying the creatively inclined player up top and on the flanks. As Beckerman observed, "He has put his head down and worked hard and tried to do everything that is asked of him — and it has really been a pleasure to see."

Gil could make his playoff debut at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday in the first leg of a marquee Western Conference semifinal against the Seattle Sounders. Considering the burden Gil has taken for a veteran Salt Lake club, it's easy to forget he's still a long-term project learning to truly grasp the obligations of a professional player.

"As you get older, you take more responsibility and realize it's going to be up to you to be a big part of wins and losses," Beckerman explained. "When you're young, you're sort of worrying about playing well enough so you can start the next game, instead of, when you get a bit older, worrying about just winning the game and doing everything you can. And that will come. I don't think that's a bad thing on Luis at all."

Once Salt Lake's season ends, whether it be hoisting the franchise's second MLS Cup or walking off the pitch in defeat, Gil will surely garner consideration for international call-ups. The fact that U.S. senior national team assistant coach Martin Vasquez is on staff with the Real Salt Lake Academy won't hurt his odds.

After leaving Salt Lake for stretches this season to represent the U.S. U-18 and U-20 national teams, Gil is looking to be an integral part of the U-23 side attempting to qualify for next summer's Olympics.

If the U.S. does earn a berth and Gil receives a spot on the roster, it'll be his second trip to London after a training stint with Arsenal's youth program in 2009. Such a journey, of course, would provide Gil with a stark reminder of what he gave up when he opted to turn down the Gunners and play domestically.

But seeing as Gil's career is now in full swing, with no signs of slowing down, the would-be high school senior has had no reason to second-guess his choice to stay stateside.

"I don't feel too bad about making that decision," Gil said. "I feel comfortable with where I'm at. I've been doing perfectly great here at RSL — I don't have any regrets."

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27 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Future bright for RSL’s Gil

  1. Idaho Brian says:

    It has been great to see Gil grow this year on the pitch for RSL. I think he still has a long way to go in developing consistency in his play, but it is clear that with his touch and vision he has a promising future. I think I am looking forward to the Olympics as much as World Cup qualifying next year…I would love to see the likes of Gil, Gatt, Gyau, Wood, Shea, Diskeruud, Corona, etc. all competing together…

  2. SoccerLee says:

    I agree with Idaho Brian! It’s been a pleasure to see him develop and I’d love to see him stay with RSL! I wish him luck with wherever the future takes him!

  3. GW says:

    Nice to see Captain Crofton apparently taking Gil under his wing.

    There are few if any better role models than the US player with the most heart since my boy Frankie left the scene.

  4. Nussdorfer AC says:

    The kid has plenty of skill and atheleticism. Here’s to a bright future.

  5. Will says:

    He reminds me of a right footed Joe Franchino

  6. Four4byu says:

    The development of Gil has been handled perfectly by RSL and Coach Kreis. Not making the mistake of throwing him into the fire too fast will do more for his future than anything else. Can’t wait him wearing our nations colors at the highest National Team level in the future! Go RSL!

  7. bryan says:

    not to mention Chandler, Williams, Lichaj, Jozy, Agudelo and Adu. Pretty awesome looking team.

  8. Primoone says:

    I would love to get optomistic about a young player like Gil. Thats not to say that I think he won’t have a great career however, it boggles the mind to think that any player would turn down the Gunner youth system or Real Madrid system to develop in the U.S. Seriously, think about that. The experience and lessons, as well as the type of quality in addition to top shelf coaching surrounding him would have been paramount. No offense to Jason or Martin Vasquez or Greg Vanney because I am sure they do a fine job for the domestic league however, they cannot develop players the way they are developed in Europe.

    There is an American kid who was in the US youth ranks training right now in La Massia being developed by the club that boasts the best team in the world as well as the best player in the world. No one can be certain what type of success he will have in the future however, you can better believe that he will have a solid footballing foundation for the rest of his career.

    link to blog.3four3.com

  9. Kid says:

    I know Gil personally, he’s a friend of mine…he didn’t sign with arsenal because they were low balling him completely when he was offered a development contract, he didn’t want to leave his family to
    move to Europe. So he opted to stay here, either in Seattle or rsl so he can stay near his family. Hence his move when kc picked him up

  10. betamale says:

    Anyone know how Lletget is coming along at West Ham? I thought he was hoping to be in the 1st team by now and I haven’t heard anything.

  11. CE says:

    It was disappointing, but without a Eu passport he wouldn’t be able to play overseas until 18 anyways. As for the link you posted, that is great news but there is really nothing you can predict from a 11 year old. We have had US players in the ranks of clubs like Man Utd, Arsenal, and Liverpool before.

  12. Primoone says:

    They were going to pay him to be developed? Sounds like a very fair deal to me. It probably wasn’t going to be near RSL money however, I don’t know all the factors that went into making a decision like that however, I can tell you that coming from a footballing family, money issues would be the least of my problems especially if I was being developed by a successful EPL team. That said, if they didn’t have the income to support a move like that to England for Luis and his parents…then thats a different can of worms.

  13. Primoone says:

    Very true. I made mention of that in my post. No guarantee however, the point I was making is the fact that kids that do come from those systems have had a solid foundation built for them. That is something that they can anchor their career to. Howard, Rossi, O’Brian, lletget…Gyau, Renken and others not mentioned…they have and will continue to have that foundation to build on. Not saying that Gils’ foundation is not going to be solid however, if I wanted a house built, I would want it built by the best home builders.

  14. Aaron in StL says:

    Obviously it’d be great but there’s no guarantee he’d have turned out better doing that. Could’ve ended up in some weird situation where he fell out of favor with coaching and didn’t get anything out of it. You never know, just good to appreciate what he’s done so far.

  15. Mentally Challenged says:

    “The Mexican-American from Garden Grove California”

    Nice research idiots. He’s only half Mexican. His mom is white.

  16. Charles says:

    “money issues would be the least of my problems”

    That is great, I am very happy for you. Now back to the real world, where my lunch is eaten and I have to work and Gil probably needs a paycheck too.

  17. Primoone says:

    Lot of whining going on there Charles however, you missed the point. Can’t help you there.

  18. Charles says:

    His mom is white ? I guess whites can’t be from Mexico ?

    And if she is from the US, 1/2 Mexican, 1/2 Americans can’t be Mexican-Americans ? Wouldn’t that make him by default Mexican-American ?

    I am very confused by your post, it makes you look like you don’t know what you are talking about, please explain further……..so we can laugh some more.

  19. Red White & Blue Porker says:

    What’s with up with this bozo

  20. bryan says:

    that makes no sense dude. His mom is from the US, his dad is from Mexico. Thus, he is Mexican-American…

  21. charles says:

    from what i recall…he told me arsenal offered him about 50k for 2 years to play in the academy….mls offered him 150k and he’d be sent to the team he wanted to…rsl

  22. Hush says:

    Half of Mexicans are white? I dont get it. :( … Is white an ethnicity now? Or are you trying to say she’s Caucasian American? Either way he has two different ethnicity’s. Latin-American is right on.

    Mentally challenged is just being remedial.

  23. abc says:

    Credit has to be given not only to the RSL organization, but also to his teammates. Take a look at two MLS organizations entrusted with the care and development of 17 year old US soccer prospects: RSL with Luis Gil and Vancouver with Omar Salgado.

    Salgado doesn’t play much at all, appears to be miserable based on interviews, says his teammates pretty much ignore him and has even been involved in a physical fight at practice (these are grown men btw).

    Now go watch the video of Luis Gil when he scores his first goal for RSL against NYRB, look at how his teammates react, they LOVE the kid and couldn’t be happier for him.

  24. abc says:

    It doesn’t matter what percentage Latin/Hispanic he is, Gil is 100% American.
    But Mexican American is the correct term for Americans of Mexican descent, what exactly is the problem here?

  25. Tim says:

    Diskeroo is awfull

  26. Sam says:

    SKC picked him up???

  27. Verbiose says:

    There are going to be a lot of American-Mexicans if Congress doesnt get their act together