Luis Gil has been labeled as “The Next Landon Donovan” and the “Future of US Soccer.” He has been compared to even Cesc Fabregas and was pursued by Arsenal when he was just 16 years old. Although the young sensation has yet to get his first cap with the senior squad, he is almost unanimously considered by United States Men’s National Team fans as the face of the next generation.
But there is one person that isn’t buying it just yet: Luis Gil.
“I kind of try to push that stuff to the side because obviously you just don’t know right now,” Gil told Sports Talk Florida in an exclusive interview. “I’m still only 18. I still have a lot ahead of me and a lot of work to do. Right now, I’m just trying to be the best player I can be. Obviously, it’s a good thing to be compared to Landon Donovan, but I’m just trying to be the best player I can be right now.”
The 18 year old has already represented the United States at the 2009 u-17 World Cup in Africa and called the experience one of his favorite moments of his young career.
“I felt like that was a big accomplishment for me… The whole opportunity and the [entire] time being there was a [great] experience: being in a country I’ve never been to and obviously representing my country in a World Cup.”
When he was 16, Gil had the opportunity to go on trial for Arsenal, and afterwards was offered a contract. But he decided to stay at home and sign with MLS instead of going overseas.
For those unfamiliar with the system, MLS is a single entity unlike teams from most other countries. This basically means that a player is actually owned by the league itself, rather than the teams. The league cuts their checks, and assigns them to teams through drafts, lotteries, trades, etc. Most American leagues follow this model.
In Europe, it is a free market system, where any team is free to purchase and sell any player it wishes at a price of mutual agreement between the parties involved.
So in choosing MLS over Arsenal, Luis did not know which club he would eventually be assigned to.
Gil was placed in a weighted lottery, with his rights being awarded to Kansas City before being traded to Real Salt Lake. [The trade is actually a vital side note because RSL have one of the best development systems and progressive-minded coaches in the league, leaving Gil in very capable hands. Whereas, Kansas City were in the midst of a massive transition at the time of his entrance into the league, which eventually included even the name and branding of the team.]
But Luis says staying in the USA was ultimately the right choice.
“So far the RSL organization has been [developing] me well, so I feel like it was a good choice coming here,” Gil says. “My first year [they taught me] patience. I was only 16 coming into the league and obviously they didn’t want to force me into games and stuff like that because it can be difficult.”
There are still aspects of the game Gil can work on. He is only 18 and even with the hype, he understands he has a long way to go still before he truly arrives.
“[I need to work on] understanding the game a little more. I’m still growing as a player. [Playing] defensively has been a big thing with me but I have been putting in work with that and paying [close] attention to it; being more physical and stuff. That’s one of the biggest things I have been trying to work on.”
One thing is for certain with Luis Gil, he certainly has his head on his shoulders and is definitely a guy all US Soccer fans can root for.
Listen to the audio below:[audio:1040/Vince/Luis_Gil.mp3|titles=Luis Gil Interview]