IRVINE, Calif. – Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil left the team’s preseason camp on Thursday, hopping on a plane to Puebla, Mexico to be with the U.S. U-20 national team for its training camp ahead of the CONCACAF U-20 Championships.
Running from Feb. 18-March 3, the CONCACAF U-20 Championships serve as the region’s qualifying tournament for this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. The top four teams at the Puebla tournament will advance to the World Cup in Turkey, one of the biggest talent showcases in global soccer.
The U.S. has been drawn into Group A with Costa Rica and Haiti in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships. The top two teams from each of the four groups advance to the knockout round, with the four semifinalists advancing to the big dance in Turkey.
With 54 appearances and 33 starts for RSL in league play, the 19-year-old Gil has the most professional experience of any of the players in the U.S. U-20 pool. He’ll be expected to carry a big load for Head Coach Tab Ramos’ squad, and he’ll need to have a good tournament for the U.S. to qualify for the U-20 World Cup.
“Going in with the national team is always a good opportunity,” Gil said. “I feel like we’re ready as a team, we’ve got our core guys, we’ve just got to take a step forward and take everything seriously.”
Already dealing with injuries to starters Javier Morales, Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert, the Claret-and-Cobalt will miss Gil during the remaining two-and-half weeks of preseason. Expected to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2013, Gil won’t have any more opportunities to mesh with RSL’s newcomers before the regular season kicks off on March 3 at San Jose.
Thankfully, the fourth-year pro isn’t very concerned about that. He’s experienced with this sort of thing, having balanced national team and club duties since he joined RSL in February 2010.
“It’s a little tough, but at the same time I’ve been in with the national team a lot,” he said. “I know what it’s like to go there, then come back with RSL. I feel like I’ve gotten to know both teams very well and our chemistry’s still there.”
Hopefully we see that chemistry in action on the field; both for the U.S. U-20’s and for Real Salt Lake when Gil returns to the club in early March.