SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake protégé Luis Gil saw just his second career start this past Saturday night against Toronto FC, and his first at the forward spot. And although he didn't register a goal or an assist, the 17-year-old was very active and put himself in good position on several occasions, continuing what's turning out to be a breakout season.
“I just thought he gave us a little bit of a different dynamic,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis after the match. “He’s got real good pace, which most people don’t know about him, because he doesn’t have probably as many opportunities when he plays in the midfield to display that pace."
As important as the turn of pace Gil brought to the attack was his tenaciousness — another aspect of his game that’s not gone unnoticed by Kreis and the staff.
“He just fights," Kreis explained. "He’s been fighting for us know for a while in our training sessions, and he was really good with the ball. His possession — percentage of completed passes — was extremely high, and we need that. We need players like that on our team. I thought he had another strong match tonight.”
Gil has started to emerge at an opportune moment for the club, as injury struggles have continued to plague RSL. Arturo Alvarez, Fabián Espíndola, Paulo Jr. and Cody Arnoux have all had recent injury issues that have left Kreis struggling to find answers up top, and in Gil, he may have found one.
“It’s a fun position,” said Gil of his spot on Saturday at forward. “I get the ball a lot when I’m up top, but I’ve just got to be ready wherever the coach puts me.”
Gil understands that his recent time on the field really amounts to on-the-job training.
“Obviously the more you play the more comfortable you get, but at the same time I’m still in the learning process,” said the US youth national teamer. “I had my chances up top as well. I was active, but it’s all part of being a starter. I still have a lot of things to learn with these guys, and especially having [Álvaro Saborío] back, I can pick up some things from him. I know that Espíndola’s out and I’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunities that I get.”
Saborío, who had only just returned himself from Gold Cup duty, had nice things to say about Gil after spending 80 minutes paired with him up top against Toronto FC.
“He’s a very good player," said the Cosa Rican national-teamer. "He’s young and he has a lot of skills. We have to give him the confidence to make something happen out there.”
One thing that has eluded Gil in his brief 323 minutes of playing time is his first league goal. However, the youngster is remaining patient.
“I’m getting close,” he said. “It’s just that in the final third I’ve got to put them away, but sometimes it’s just that I don’t get the best touch or it’s not the best angle. I’m getting there little by little. It will come soon.”