SANDY — Real Salt Lake had a pretty straightforward challenge to Luis Gil in 2013, “show up on the scoreboard,” as general manager Garth Lagerwey put it.
A year after Gil recorded just one goal and three assists in 29 games, the RSL technical staff challenged the 19-year-old midfielder to not settle for just being a complimentary player in 2013.
Five games into the season, Gil finally showed up on the scoreboard last Saturday as his 35th-minute header against Seattle proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Incredibly, it was his first MLS goal since scoring at New York on March 17, 2012, a span of over 30 games.
As thrilled as he was to end the scoring drought, Gil didn’t want to overhype its importance from a confidence standpoint.
“It’s great, but I’ve got to build off of it. I can’t feel that just because I scored a goal, that’s it. I still feel like my game today wasn’t the best. I don’t feel like I was as sharp, and it took me a while to get into the game. I felt my touch in the beginning was getting ahead of me a little bit,” Gil said.
Despite the slow start, Gil settled down and had a strong game playing at the top of RSL’s diamond midfield before being subbed off by Javier Morales.
Even though last Saturday was Gil’s first contributors on the scoreboard, RSL coach Jason Kreis has been very pleased with Gil’s steady progress since last year.
“I think he’s been involved in quite a few attacking movements over the first five games, and he’s also got off several shots in matches, and that’s what you need first,” Kreis said. “You need somebody to be involved in those plays, and then you need them to be creating their own and getting on the ends of shots and then creating shots for others. In my opinion his game has really taken a nice step forward.”
Gil’s six shots on goal in five games this season leads Real Salt Lake, and incredibly has already surpassed the five shots on goal he registered in 29 games last year.
One of the biggest factors contributing to Gil’s increased productivity in 2013 was the experience gained with the U.S. Under-20 National Team during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, which ran concurrently with RSL’s preseason.
“If he gained nothing else from the under 20s, he gained confidence. He was the man. They ran their attack through him. He had two goals and two assists and he had a hand in almost every goal they scored,” Lagerwey said.
Being consistent game after game is one of the next steps for Gil.
“I’ve got to start stepping up now and making big plays like that every single game. It can’t just be every other game or every three games,” Gil said.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.