SANDY, Utah – It is nearly unheard of for an 18-year-old to already be three years into his chosen profession. Most kids that age are just entering the work force, or college.
Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil, however, is a special case. The Southern California native has already made 48 appearances with the club, and is basically a veteran at this point.
"I think he has exceeded my expectations for sure about where he would be in his third year as a pro in MLS and with Real Salt Lake," said head coach Jason Kreis. "I think his development has come along very well, but I still think he has a long way to go as well.”
Gil's latest challenge was trying to fit into the new formation the team employed in last Friday's 0-0 draw with the Philadelphia Union. RSL used a five-man midfield that had both Gil and fellow attacking midfielder Javier Morales both on the field at the same time.
"We had a different formation. I feel like we kind of adapted well to it," said Gil. "I thought I did pretty good on my defensive side, didn't get too much involved in the attack. I think I had some pretty good passes, stole the ball some but overall I thought I played OK.
"I feel like we just need to be on the same page," said Gil of playing with another attacking midfielder. "We need to read each other and play off each other and make sure that if he is going forward I hang back and then the other way around."
Gil has appeared in 23 of the team's 27 MLS games this season, starting 15. But with a player like Morales in front of him, playing time can be a little sporadic.
"It's difficult. You have to be prepared all the time," Gil said. "You have to be mentally and obviously physically ready all the time."
“All the time” is a key phrase for Gil. It’s something he feels has worked on since first joining the club as a 16-year-old prodigy.
"I think my consistency," Gil said when asked what he’s improved the most. "I don't just mean playing wise, but in training as well. I think I have been taking every opportunity I have and doing the best that I can."
Nonetheless, Gil agrees with Kreis that there’s plenty of work left to do.
"Defensively, I fell like that is the biggest thing. I think I already had the attacking part down," said Gil. "But I do need to get even more involved in the attack. Sometimes, I think I am a little too hesitant in that and play it a little too safe. I probably need to take a few more risks and get forward a little more."
It’s something Kreis wants to see. And the coach isn’t shy about letting Gil know that – or about the expectations he has for the future.
“He is a very young player we know, he's 18 years old now,” Kreis said. “And he's not even close to what he will be."