LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers is feeling it, too: Luis Gil overload.
Everything that has come out about the team this past week has featured the young midfielder, who scored his first goal in MLS last Saturday against the New York Red Bulls.
“Ahh, Luis week, huh?” Borchers scoffed after practice on Tuesday.
In truth, that’s the nature of the beast when a young player bursts onto the scene—especially when that player is considered a national team prospect.
But all that is down the road. In the meantime, the 17-year-old is an important player for RSL head coach Jason Kreis, to whom his development is paramount to his present and future contributions to the club. But Gil is also a guinea pig of sorts, a test case for Kreis to show he can develop young players into quality professionals.
“It’s one step in the right direction,” Kreis said. “Luis, or Collen Warner, or Chris Schuler or Raushawn McKenzie or Donny Toia — they’re all products in the making, but I do feel like we’re headed in the right direction with all of those players.”
Kreis did throw out some praise for Gil, but cautioned that the youngster can’t take his foot off of the gas now.
“He gets paid to be part of a winning team, and so his goal was fantastic: great reaction play from Kyle [Beckerman, who assisted on the goal], great turn by Luis, good touch, good knowledge to try the strike—and a great strike,” Kreis said. “That individual play was spectacular, but there’s still room to go. I think his potential is still skyscrapers above where he’s at right now. And he knows that, and I know that, and he’s 17 years old and so I think everything’s headed in the right direction.”
As much as Borchers made light of the attention the young star has received, the fact remains that Gil, talented as he may be, still has to be pointed in the right direction—and that's a responsibilty tasked to veterans such as Borchers.
“I think there’s always a responsibility when you’re an older player just to make sure that you’re patient with your young guys,” Borchers said. “Make sure that you’re constantly in their ear about doing the right things, whether it be being a good professional on and off the field, defending well, making the right choices with the ball. We’ve got a good veteran group and so I think you’d have to attribute a lot of his success to us.”
“That’s part of being on a team,” Borchers added. “You have to look out for your young guys, and if you don’t you run the risk of ostracizing them, and not letting them see their full potential.”