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Player Spotlight

Luis Gil Speaks to ASN About Mexico, U.S., Options

Rumors surfaced last week that the Mexican federation had expressed interest in dual-citizen midfielder Luis Gil, so American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta caught up with the midfielder and asked about it.

BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 23, 2013
12:57 PM
LUIS GIL HAS ALREADY made plenty of headlines this year.

Earlier this year the teenager was an integral part of the United States under-20 team that looked impressive in World Cup qualifying and then fell flat during the tournament. During the Major League Soccer season he has emerged as one of the best midfielders on a Real Salt Lake team that is a contender for the MLS Cup. And just last week MLS Soccer ranked Gil No. 2 in its 24 under 24 series, a listing of the best young players in the American league.

The 19-year-old from Garden Grove, Calif.—still uncapped for the U.S. senior team and a dual-citizen with both Mexican and U.S, passports—made more headlines in recent weeks when it was learned that the Mexican federation has been making serious inquiries into Gil in the hope that it can persuade him to represent Mexico on the international stage.

Gil spoke to American Soccer Now about these latest developments, quickly establishing that he had not spoken directly with the Mexican federation, but adding that he wasn’t surprised by their interest. He did insist, however, that his heart is still with the United States.

“It was kind of expected,” Gil said of El Tri's interest. “I’ve heard it before when I was younger. I haven’t heard directly from them. It’s always been around but I just hope that one day I hope I can play for the U.S. I grew up wanting to play for U.S. Soccer.”

Despite playing extensively with U.S. youth national teams, Gil remains eligible to switch to Mexico and he will remain eligible until he plays for the full United States national team in an official competition—such as the Gold Cup or a World Cup qualifier.

It's hard to predict when that will be as the 2014 World Cup is fast approaching. Next month’s qualifiers are the final two for the U.S., and with qualifying assured it is possible that Jurgen Klinsmann, while saying he wants to bring his top team, could experiment with a few experimental players such as Gil.

If Gil is not called up next month, the only opportunity for him to be cap-tied to the United States in 2014 will be at the World Cup itself, which seems like a bit of a long shot. Following that, it will not be until the 2015 Gold Cup. That's a long time to leave a top prospect waiting in the wings.

That said, there is a good chance that Gil could play with the U.S. team in January as part of the annual winter camp that primarily showcases the best MLS-based players. Though he could not be cap-tied in January, Gil would be honored to have the opportunity to prove himself to Klinsmann. It might surprise American soccer supporters to learn that the two have never met.

“I haven’t spoken to Klinsmann personally,” Gil said. “If I had the opportunity with the national team, it’s not about being ready. it’s about wanting to be there. It’s always a great opportunity and you have to take advantage of it.”

Another opportunity that Gil is thinking about is the 2016 Olympics, an under-23 event that could be the final youth tournament of his career. After the U.S. U-20 team failed to advance out of the “Group of Death” with Spain, France, and Ghana at the 2013 World Cup, Gil began to think about getting another chance at the Olympics.

The U-20 World Cup was a disappointment and the 2016 Olympic team will mostly consist of players from the player pool of the 2013 and 2015 U-20 teams. Gil believes that the team has the ability to achieve better results than it did this past summer, but the mentality will have to change.

“After you settle and you really think about it, it will be a great opportunity to try to make the Olympic squad,” Gil explained. “It’s a good opportunity but you have to be ready for it. It’s a long ways away. It’s something I’ll think about. Everyone in the player pool just has to be hungry.”

“We have the players for it,” he continued. “You saw at the World Cup we had the players to get the job done. But I just felt like we weren’t as hungry to get through. I feel that in our last opportunity against Ghana it showed they wanted it more than us. That is something that we really have to work on because that is what’s going to get us through to the next round.”

For now, however, the topic of when he will next play for the United States is all speculative. Instead, he prefers to focus on Real Salt Lake and its campaign to win the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters Shield, and the MLS Cup. Real Salt Lake currently sits in second place in the Western Conference, trailing leaders Seattle by two points. RSL trains the New York Red Bulls in the Supporters Shield race—which goes to the team with the best overall record in MLS—by three points. On September 30, Salt Lake and DC United will play in the final of the U.S. Open Cup.

As Real Salt Lake prepares to go for an unprecedented treble in the coming weeks, head coach Jason Kreis has seen improvement in Gil’s game this season and believes his potential is extraordinarily high.

“I feel like in particular this year, I think he feels the confidence,” Kreis said in a recent interview for MLSsoccer.com. “He feels he's earned enough respect from the players around him to make some plays, to take some risks in the attacking third, and to get on the score sheet. I think his potential is still sky-high. I don't think he's anywhere near it right now.”

Gil has five goals and three assists in 26 appearances for Real Salt Lake this season. He turns 20 in November and is happy with his development under Kreis, who has pushed him in all aspects of his game.

“I feel more comfortable on the attacking side," Gil said. "With Jason Kreis’ system, it’s a little difficult because you have to be a two-way player. And coming into the league, I wasn’t a two way player. I was more of a creator in the attack. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to be effective on both sides of the ball and defend as well. It took me back a little bit but it improved me."

"Now I’m more involved on both sides of the ball.”

With a solid year already behind him, some big games ahead of him, and interest from the Mexican federation hanging in the air, Gil's full international debut could come sooner than rather than later.

Would you like to see Gil called in for the October qualifiers? Or do you think Klinsmann should field his A Team for the two mostly meaningless matches? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Brian Sciaretta is a frequent American Soccer Now contributor and a member of the ASN 100 editorial panel. Follow him on Twitter.

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