U.S. Youth National Teams

After promising 2012, Gil poised for a breakout year in 2013

Photo by ISIphotos.com


SUNRISE, Fla. — Luis Gil understands the opportunities that stand before him and he is ready to grab them and not let go.

As 2012 wraps up and 2013 begins, Gil looks set for a big year on both the club and international levels. The 19-year-old midfielder is poised to take on a more prominent role with Real Salt Lake next season, and he is also expected to be one of the integral parts to the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team as it prepares for World Cup qualifying.

Tackling both tasks simultaneously might be daunting for most 19-year-olds, but Gil is a three-year veteran in MLS and is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me and not many players get that,” Gil told SBI. “I feel like qualifying wise and national team wise, it’s a big stepping stone for me, especially to even go on to men’s national team and get seen from there. But with Real Salt Lake as well, getting more playing time, being more of a key player, so I feel like it’s a big opportunity for me and it’s just up to me to grab it.”

At Real Salt Lake, conversations have already been had about Gil’s role for next season. RSL head coach Jason Kreis talked to Gil following their playoff defeat to the Seattle Sounders to tell the youngster how he would be counted upon even more in 2013, and that scenario is taking shape after the departure of one of the team’s key offensive weapons in Fabian Espindola.

Gil knows his time to deliver for Real Salt Lake is fast approaching.

“We had meetings together, but I feel like me personally, I need to step up now,” said Gil. “This is going to be my fourth year and I know I’m still only 19 and not many 19-year-olds are in four years already, but at the same time I have some experience now and now I have to put in a work thing because now it’s not an age thing. Once you step onto the field, it’s who plays better.”

In 2012, Gil played in 29 games for Real Salt Lake, a stark contrast from his rookie year in 2010 when he never saw the field. Gil was not always happy with his lack of playing time then, but having matured on and off the field and understanding better what it takes to make it in MLS, he is thankful for the way Kreis integrated him into the professional ranks.

“I feel like I was in best spot possible,” said Gil. “It just worked out fine. He brought me in slowly, which I appreciate now. When I first came, obviously you want to play and play but you’ve got to understand it takes time with these things and you can’t just force things, so I feel like I came out slowly and it just all worked out for me.”

As a result of Kreis’ plan for him, Gil believes he is more of a two-way and team-oriented player than he was a couple years ago and that is one of the reasons many pundits expect the attacking midfielder to be a key cog for U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos.

Under-20 World Cup qualifying in Mexico begins in about two months, and preparations have continued in South Florida during this past week. Gil is one of many players fighting for a spot on the team, but Ramos has been impressed with what he has brought to the camp.

“This is probably the best camp he has had with us all year,” Ramos told SBI. “I can really tell that he’s engaged and he wants this and he wants to help the team anyway he can and that’s a good sign for a player who is already in the pros and playing every day, so we’re happy to see that.”

The camp has not been an extensive one, having started last Saturday and ending on Friday afternoon with a friendly against Venezuela. Still, Gil understands just how important it is to make the most of this opportunity.

“Some guys are new in here, some guys are first-timers,” said Gil,” but some of us have been here for a while, but at the same time just because we’ve been here for a while doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed a spot.”


  • Camjam

    I have a hard time with my RSL goggles on, so I’m wondering what others think:

    Do you guys see Gil with potential to be a “#10” or as more of a 2 way midfielder. I think he works well in a 2-way role, but I see a lot of potential for him to be a true #10. Most experts seem to disagree with that sentiment.


    • OPMG

      I feel like he’s going to becoma a Michael Bradley 2.0. Maybe he’ll show something this year in the attack that we haven’t seen, but he definitely has the ability to be a box to box presence on the field.


      • TomG

        I don’t really see much comparison between MB and Gil as MB is nearly a half foot taller and plays a more physical style. While MB creates space with length and strength, Gil uses quickness and change of pace and direction. MB can step in for you at dmid and not miss a beat. Gil could wind up being a Cesc Fabregas type. I’m not saying he will be as good as Cesc, just that his playing style is similar.


    • Alex

      Problem with talking about a “true no. 10” is that they’re really almost extinct in modern soccer. Can you give me an example of someone you consider a true no. 10? I’m not being facetious, I just want a frame of reference before we talk about how Gil will develop.


      • beto


        I agree the days of a single player that was the center force of the offense (Maradona, Pele) is past. Nowadays the best players on most teams are outside midfielders/forwards (8,7, 11) and some center forwards (9) ; Ronaldo, Messi, Inesta, Ibra, Rooney, Bale, Dempsey, Donovan, etc. While CM’s are usually the supporting cast; Xavi, Ozil, Alonso, Gerrard, Giggs, Beckham, Bradley, Schweinsteiger, etc.

        The US shouldn’t be looking for the new Maradona. I actually have grown to like what Jurgen is doing with the Jones, Bradley, Zusi, Williams, etc. midfields, Basically the role of the 10 is spread out among the three midfielders and they all just try to hold possession as long as possible until one of the three forwards is in a goal scoring spot. Its much more realistic.


      • DS

        you’re almost right, but:

        8 is not a winger or outside midfielder or fwd; traditionally, 8 is the “linker” between the 6 (the one who shields the back-4); 8 typically plays one-touch or two-touch passes to keep the flow crisp; 10 “unlocks” defenses by getting between the midfield (6, 8 of the other team) and the defense of the opponent and plays with more creativity, fewer defensive responsibilities…

        This is just tradition.. the modern game has many variants – there’s the 10 who plays as a second striker (Dempsey for Fulham and Tottenham), Fabregas for Barcelona/Arsenal, David Silva or Sami Nasri sometimes for Man City. The closest to a traditional 10 these days is Ozil for Madrid. Xavi and Iniesta together play as an 8-10 combo (sometimes Fabregas plays in front of them as a true 10). THere’s also a modern tendency to have the most creative player start as a wide forward (in a 4-3-3), then tuck in, allow the fullback to overlap, and be more of an inside player playing through balls and such. Ronaldinho, Messi (before his false-9 days), David Silva, Iniesta sometimes for Barca, are all in this category.


      • Colin

        Some true #10s
        Van Der Vaart

        Mata and Silva can deff play that role


    • MMV

      Personally speaking, I see Gil somewhere between Reyna and Bradley. He doesn’t have the bite and tenacity of Bradley nor does he take the methodical approach of Reyna. He’s more of a hybrid player. He can adjust the tiempo to his team’s liking and can spray the ball around quite effectively.He lets the game come to him as opposed to Bradley who sometimes goes searching for it or Reyna who often slowed it down to gain control. I really, really like Gil and if he can develop into a more intuitive attacker and not defer to others he will be around the Sr. National Team for a long time. I think he and Bradley would be a perfect pairing down the road.


      • Camjam

        I see what you’re talking about here. It is hard to argue that any team runs solely with a true 10 anymore, but if Gil could develop as a more attack-minded version of MB90, that would be pretty good for the USMNT


    • MLSsnob

      God I hope he’s a number 10, we already have a plethora of Michael Bradley’s, maybe not as good as him but that tye of player. We’ve always missed a true 10 and I always held out hope that Gil would be that guy, if not then there’s always Emerson Hyndman!


    • louis z

      The first time I saw him play I thought he had the qualities to be a “10”, a year later, it looked to me that his game had changed more of an “8”.


      • DS

        This is a perceptive comment, not just because you observe some transition in Gil’s game, but also because this seems like a tendency too common in US soccer… creative players who end up becoming “more responsible” and less incisive. All this talk about becoming a “two-way player” in a league that is not known for its high pressing only means that we’re giving our creative players a reality check and bringing them back to earth, at #8.

        I saw Donovan not long ago in a playoff match, and as he has matured, he has started to play like a true #10 more and more… watch his defense-splitting pass to set up one of Keane’s goals in the playoffs (I think it was at San Jose).


  • OPMG

    Great article. I love Gil’s potential. He proved last season that he can be an effective role player. I’m really hoping to see him take the next step and prove that he can handle more responsibility on the team, especially on the offensive end.


  • Dudester

    Gil is an example that young american teenagers can develope in MLS, you have to be good enough to start though because the reserves don’t cut it.That being said if MLS can get reserve teams in the USL that would change.


    • 2tone

      On another note U.S. U-20’s Beat Venezuela today 4-0. Gil, Villarreal, Rodriguez, and Metzger were the goal scorers.


      • Darwin

        Our U-17s got knocked out of the 2011 cup in the round of 16, only to watch Mexico win its second title.

        Our U-20s failed to qualify for the 2011 cup, only to watch Mexico take 3rd place.

        Our U-23s failed to qualify for the Olympics, only to watch Mexico take the gold.

        Our MNT moved on to the fourth round of WC qualifying barely making it to the top of a weak group, only to watch Mexico steamroll their way to a perfect 18 points with a +13 goal differential.

        I certainly hope this group of U-20s can qualify and continue to contribute to the U-23s and the MNT.

        Here are a list of holdovers from the U-17s:
        Kendall McIntosh
        Mario Rodríguez
        Marc Pelosi (c)
        Jack McBean

        Cody Cropper is the only holdover from the U-20s that failed to qualify:


      • 2tone

        Putting way too much stock in what Mexico is doing at the youth level. The U.S. has and will be just fine going forward.


      • Air Jordanz

        The US U23s dominated and beat the Mexico U23s 2-0 in February. The senior team went down to the Azteca and shut out Mexico at home. Pretty sure our U17s beat Mexico this year in a consolation game in one of those mini euro tourneys.

        Your point?


      • fortunate only

        Soooo what you’re saying is our youth national teams know how to win friendlies but not official competitions?

        Japan and Spain also beat the Mexican Olympic team prior to the Olympics.

        As far as U17s, they beat Mexico in PKs in the Mundial de Minimes but every other time we played Mexico this year, we have lost. Especially in that tournament in Costa Rica where they beat us twice, including the final, by a combined score of 6-1.

        What was your point again?


      • Darwin

        I don’t see how I am taking too much stock into what Mexico is doing at the youth level…and I hope I don’t have to reiterate my point: They won gold, we didn’t go. So what if we beat them in a friendly (I was in the stands that day in Frisco supporting the US).

        2tone, I’m glad that you are happy with our progress.


  • Lost in Space

    While Gil has great potential lets not jump too far ahead of ourselves. At best Gil is a player for the 2018 WC squad. But isn’t likely to contribute to the National Team level for a few more years.
    Between now and then we’ve got to Find a Replacement for Donovan, Dempsey, Boca, and Dolo.
    Until we close those holes we’re likely going to struggle.


    • Edwin in LA

      I don’t think so, with guys like Saborio, Morales and Beckerman around him I think he can shine this year. I hope to see a 10 assists or near it type of year and a good 7-10 goals if he does have a breakout year, not exactly out of the question if you ask me….


  • @Boriuano_10

    “now it’s not an age thing. Once you step onto the field, it’s who plays better.”


  • Dennis

    He’s 19! He is athletically good and technically sound. He played well on youth teams which tend to reward those qualities. Now it is time for him to step into a role on a team that demands he make quick smart decisions. It is sort a make or break situation for him (but some players take longer to develop the ability to concentrate and make good decisions with few mental errors over the whole 90 minutes). I hope he can assume a pivotal role quickly.


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