World Cup 2014

World Cup: Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil eager to seize opportunity despite being youngest in USMNT camp

Luis Gil with US Under-20s

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USA TODAY Sports

When Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil first found out he was on the cusp of making it onto the US national team, he wasn't quite sure it was true.

After all, this is a World Cup year and Gil has yet to earn a serious look from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

“It was crazy,” Gil told MLSsoccer.com. “I got an e-mail about it, but it just said it was the preliminary roster. So I didn't want to get too excited about it because it wasn't the for-sure roster.”

Not to worry. It's for real. Gil, along with teammates Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, were all called up for the Americans' January training camp last week. They report Monday and training begins Tuesday.

Beckerman and Rimando have been here before. They helped lead the US to the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship in 2013. But for 20-year-old Gil, this will be his first experience with the senior team. He was a regular for the Under-20 team in 2013, scoring a pair of goals in the CONCACAF U-20 tournament and another goal and an assist at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

But this time, he's training Klinsmann as the USMNT coach is putting together the team he'll take to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

“When I first got called up, I didn't really think about it,” Gil said. “But now that it's getting closer, it's huge if you really think about it. This is serious. Jurgen is getting a team together to take the World Cup. It's not like it's just a camp to get back in shape. It's something I've got to be ready for.”

At 20, Gil will be the youngest player in camp. He's younger than the other two 20 year-olds, Colorado Rapids defender Shane O’Neill and Seattle Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin, by a few months.

But Gil doesn't sound intimidated by the challenge. In a way, it's just another day on the job for the RSL midfielder despite him playing now with "the big boys."

“I mean, I don't think of it that way. I don't think about being the youngest player,” Gil said. “I've been playing professionally since I was 15, so I've always been with older guys. I don't think they're going to treat me like I'm a kid. I don't feel like I'm a kid. And I don't think anybody is going to go easy on me.”

Gil is one of eight midfielders Klinsmann called up for the camp. He'll be fighting for a spot on the squad with Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Benny Feilhaber and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), and his teammate/RSL captain Beckerman. But Gil is used to that type of fierce competition.

“We're all competing for a spot. That's what we do all the time,” said Gil, who said he's gotten pointers from Beckerman about playing for Klinsmann. “Throughout the season, I've talked with Kyle and Nick and [RSL defender] Tony Beltran about expectations when you go with the [national] team.

"It's a whole different thing. It's just tougher. It's more physical. I feel like Jurgen is going to test us a little bit more. It's going to be difficult.”

But Gil insists he's not going into this feeling intimidated and he's happy to cut his already-short offseason — RSL played for the MLS Cup on Dec. 7, losing to SKC in a shootout — even shorter.

“I'm just ready to get out there and kick the ball around and play some soccer,” Gil said. “This is what it's all about. I'm excited.”