ISTANBUL – If any observers got the impression that US Under-20 national team midfielder Luis Gil was feeling mighty comfy during Friday's World Cup-opening loss to Spain, they were absolutely correct.
The promising 19-year-old Real Salt Lake playmaker drew widespread praise for his full shift, which he capped with a spectacular corner pick from 20 yards for the late consolation goal in a 4-1 defeat (WATCH THE GOAL HERE).
"I've been working years for this, so you just go out there and do what you've got to do," Gil told MLSsoccer.com a day ahead of the team's second Group A match against France (Monday, 11 am ET, ESPN2 and Univision Deportes).
The Orange County, Calif., native, who could have also notched an assist or two, was the author of the USA's most dangerous moments. Gil not only earned plaudits from the international press, but also from US boss Tab Ramos.
ANATOMY OF A GOAL: Gil scores perfect set piece
"I'm happy with the game he played," Ramos told reporters following the Spain game. "He made a great effort, scored a great goal and was probably our best player."
In contrast to the more-structured style of play at Real Salt Lake, Gil has been given the freedom to create at will at the U-20 World Cup. He says that type of license increases the amount of impact he can make on a match.
"With RSL, I'm up against older guys and it's a little more difficult," he said. "Here there's more time and space on the ball. Coming here gives me more confidence and that's why I'm more comfortable on the ball."
If such performances continue while in Turkey, Real Salt Lake may find it tough to keep hold of the youngster. Well aware that the U-20 World Cup is well-scouted by European clubs, Gil – who trialed with Arsenal and drew Real Madrid interest at the age of 16 – is more interested in helping the US get back in the race for advancement with a result against France.
"Obviously this is a great opportunity for players to showcase themselves," Gil said. "But I'm focused on my team and we're in a bit of a situation right now. We need to start winning. If we win, it makes the whole team look good."
Looking ahead to Monday, he expects as big a challenge from France as the US received against Spain. And Gil says he's ready for it.
"It's two different teams, but I feel like France has a bit of the same thing," he rated. "They have great technical players, and might be a little more dynamic. If France only gets one or two chances, they're going to put them away, so we have to do the same thing."
Greg Seltzer covers Americans based abroad for MLSsoccer.com.