Luis Gil made a name for himself in 2011, but Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis is still trying to temper expectations for the 18-year-old midfielder.
And while media and fans may expect Gil to take another significant step forward in his development with another year under his belt, Kreis isn’t ready to start heaping any pressure on his young playmaker just yet.
“It’s an interesting situation,” Kreis explained to media after practice late last week. “Obviously, Luis made some major contributions for us last year. Some of those contributions were born out of injuries, and also he was playing very, very well.
“So everything came together for him at the right time. I want him to take a step forward. Does that mean that I’m going to put pressure on him to take that step forward? No, I’m not.”
Gil joined RSL in 2010 but the team consciously took a deliberate approach with his development, and he did not make his debut in that initial season. That approach changed dramatically in 2011, though, as he saw action in 25 matches, including 14 starts.
“We’re going to do our absolute best to try to get him to [take another step forward],” Kreis said. “It would be great if he does, because we do need contributions from somebody like a Luis Gil this year. There will be no doubt that we’re going to need quality minutes.
“We’re going to need starting minutes. We’re going to need minutes off the bench. We’re going to need everything. But there’s no weight. There’s no expectation. There’s no pressure on him to do that.”
For his part, Gil doesn’t feel burdened by expectations, but he knows that he needs to continue to work on his game.
“There are always things I can work on, especially defensively, but also being comfortable with the team and playing within the system,” Gil told MLSsoccer.com this week via phone from training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. “There is always room for improvement.”
Still, the retirement of midfielder Andy Williams and the selection of Collen Warner by Montreal in the Expansion Draft have opened a path for Gil to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Although he can play anywhere on the field in an attacking role, he could turn out to be the primary backup to Javier Morales in the No. 10 role.
For now, however, the focus is in doing the work that the preseason demands of a young player. Gil feels like that’s what’s going to propel him forward.
“During every day here in practice, I’ve got to take a step forward as well and just keep getting better and never take a day off,” he said. “With the moves that we’ve made and stuff like that, I feel like I’ve still got to make another step and contribute to the team and keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully everything works out.”