LEHI, Utah – It's not the ideal solution for Luis Gil, but Real Salt believe the minutes the 16-year-old midfielder will get on his loan spell to USSF D2 side AC St. Louis will help the development of their young star.
Though RSL head coach Jason Kreis said he hopes the move will give Gil valuable playing time, he said that he doesn't believe it's a completely effective replacement mechanism for MLS' Reserve Division—which was shut down after the 2008 season—and worries about the lack of opportunities that give young players a chance to regularly compete in a professional environment.
“Luis Gil hasn’t played a competitive match against professional players yet, and it’s been six months,” Kreis said.
Real Salt Lake have frequently used similar loan arrangements as a way to help provide young players earn valuable game experience.
St. Louis hosted RSL players Collen Warner and Chris Schuler for brief loan stints earlier this season, though RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said Gil's arrangement has a special consideration because of the player's young age.
“In this case, the general manager for St. Louis [Tim Owens] agreed to personally house him in his house and to be responsible for his care,” Lagerwey said.
“Luis has continued to improve during his time with us,” Lagerway added. “The thing that we can’t get him here is games. We thought it was a perfect time to go get him some games in [Division 2] and help continue his growth.”
Gil's situation is interesting not only for RSL fans, but for US soccer fans, too. As a national-team prospect, his development may be as important to the success of the US senior team as it is to Real Salt Lake. The key is to gain real game experience. RSL have received assurances from St. Louis that Gil will get substantial time on the field.
“In my eyes, it’s really good because you’re sending them out to kind of get kicked a little bit," Kreis said. "You’re sending them out on their own to sink or swim. And these are meaningful matches—they are just like us—they are trying to get points, trying to make the playoffs, and there are fans there that bought tickets. So there is real-life pressure.”