MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – When Real Salt Lake’s 2015 campaign ended without a playoff appearance for the first time in eight years, promising midfielder Luis Gil had a sit-down with club general manager Craig Waibel to discuss his situation.
It’s no secret Gil’s performance tailed off last year. In 16 starts, he only notched one goal and two assists. It was admittedly a step back for the 22-year-old California native considering his career year in 2013, when he recorded a career-best five goals and three helpers after starting 24 games.
“We both reached an agreement that I felt I needed a change of scenery,” Gil said of his meeting with Waibel. “We ended on good terms.”
So it was no surprise when Gil agreed to a three-year contract with Liga MX club Queretaro FC via a free transfer in December. The move to Mexico is allowing him to elevate his game, Gil said early Tuesday evening from Miami, where he was with the US Under-23 men’s national team, which is preparing for a home-and-away playoff against Colombia's U-23 team beginning on Friday (6 pm ET, FS1/UDN). The team that scores the most goals will get the final berth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“To play in Mexico is something I always wanted to do,” Gil said. “It was easy for me making the transition. I still have family out there. They are not far from where I am at. And I am growing as a player. I am getting a lot of minutes. Obviously, it’s a different style of soccer. It’s raising my game even more.”
Now, he’s soaking in his new club’s success. In the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, Queretaro beat D.C. United on Feb. 23 and tied the MLS club 1-1 on March 1, which sent the Liga MX team to the semifinals, where they are tied with Tigres ahead of the second leg.
“It was cool because I got to experience a different side of soccer,” Gil said. “And it was awesome that we won as well [against D.C. United].”
Despite his busy schedule, he said he still tries to keep up with his first professional team, Real Salt Lake, on his off days.
“It’s interesting to see how they are doing,” Gil said. “I wish them luck.”