AMSTERDAM — No one said competing against seasoned Dutch competition would be all smooth sailing, but Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil says the Generation adidas tour still offers plenty of developmental positives for squad members, even if their first match didn’t quite go as planed.
Games against regular club sides FC Volendam and Almere City FC can indeed be a tall ask for a group playing together for the first time on short notice – a 4-2 defeat from a decent outing against the Ajax reserves on Thursday will attest to that.
Still, Gil (above right, with Omar Salgado) is grateful for the opportunity to join the trip following time at the first US Olympic camp. Thus far, the 18-year-old playmaker has trained at the world-famous De Toekomst for a week, played 44 minutes against the second team and taken in exciting matches at Ajax and Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar.
You'll hear no complaints from him.
"It's been fun, getting to travel and experience different types of soccer," Gil told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday's friendly. "We're getting to know new guys and learning to play together. It's an adjustment, but it's still good to get the experience of playing these types of teams."
It certainly doesn’t hurt when you notice Ajax assistant coach Danny Blind watching the game or to see various giants from the club’s past and present milling about the academy lounge afterward.
"It's good to see these guys around," Gil grinned, surveying the all-star luncheon taking place around him. "We don't get to see this everyday."
It's been quite a star-struck offseason for the youngster, who underwent his first run out by Olympic team stand-ins Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos last month in Germany.
Gil spent most of that camp with the younger group, a product of both his tender age and a well-stacked depth chart at his position. He won't be at the December Under-23 gathering, but he has been called to join Ramos' U-20 side in January.
"They're taking it slow [with me], trying to get me comfortable with the U-20s," he said. "It's just something where I have to work harder. If I want to be up with the older guys, it's all up to me."
Along those lines, he’s already begun proving himself in MLS, playing a crucial role with club side Real Salt Lake last season as Javier Morales missed much of the year through injury.
Soon enough, Gil will return to Utah to get ready for his second MLS season, full of fresh memories and advanced tutelage from his travels. Though eager for a shot at MLS Cup glory, he still spends plenty of time reminiscing about the rookie campaign that put him on the Generation adidas squad.
"It is special," said Gil, who started 14 of his 25 contests for Real Salt Lake in 2011. "I got to play a lot, obviously, and learn with these guys. I'm thankful for coach [Jason] Kreis, he handled me the right way. He brought me along slowly and it helped shape me into the style of RSL soccer."