SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake have to find a replacement for the injured Javier Morales, and their search begins in earnest this Saturday at home to the Houston Dynamo (9 pm ET; FOX Soccer).
One player likely in the mix is 17-year-old Luis Gil. The talented attacking player who has been developing rapidly since joining the RSL squad last year. However, Gil will be taking a brief detour first. He’s been called into the US U-20 squad, along with teammate Donny Toia, and will be traveling to France with the team from May 15-20. Gil will then continue on with the U-18 squad, which is headed to Portugal for the Lisbon International Tournament until May 28.
This is an important time for Gil to make his impression on the national team set-up, especially if he wants to be selected to next year’s Olympic roster. However, Gil also has a good opportunity to make an impression on the RSL staff, and opportunities could present themselves in June.
Shortly after Gil returns, RSL is expected to lose several attacking players, including Will Johnson, Álvaro Saborío and Arturo Alvarez to Gold Cup duty which could keep those players away for the majority of the month of June if their teams do well.
That, coupled with the injury to Morales, will leave RSL short on attack-minded midfielders. That means they will have veterans Andy Williams and Ned Grabavoy, and youngsters Collen Warner, Nelson González and Gil all competing for three spots on the field during a four-week stretch in which they play six league matches plus an Open Cup game.
Head coach Jason Kreis said that Gil’s call-ups this month may be perfect timing, likening the action he’ll get this month to that of players such as Chris Schuler and Collen Warner who gained invaluable experience while on loan with lower division clubs last year.
“He gets a lot of meaningful competition and a lot of match fitness minutes," Kreis said. "When he gets back were going to hope that he’s ready to contribute.”
Club GM Garth Lagerwey said that Gil has grown both as a player and in stature over the past year.
“He’s got tremendous speed and athleticism, and he’s just starting to use it,” Lagerwey said. “Physically, he’s still growing. He grew so much last year that he had Osgood Schlatter, which is a joint disorder caused by rapid growth spurts. He’s literally getting bigger, faster and stronger."
Although Gil has played as a No. 10 playmaker with the youth national teams, Lagerwey said that he thinks that his natural position may lie elsewhere.
"I know we look at him maybe in that role — I wouldn’t rule it out — but I think he can be a box-to-box midfielder," Lagerwey said.
Lagerwey has a lot of confidence in the ability of Gil and the other young players to contribute.
“As an organization if we’ve done it right, then when these kids have an opportunity and they’ll get it done," Lagerwey said. "It’s time to stand up and be counted.”