MLS • The youngster likely will play a larger role down the stretch.
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Sandy • Luis Gil felt a sharp pain in his stomach last Sunday morning.
A day later, his appendix freshly removed, the 19-year-old Real Salt Lake midfielder was out of the hospital and back practicing with his teammates. It was only out of an abundance of caution and with some tough decision making that Gil was kept out of Tuesday's Open Cup championship.
"I was really disappointed," RSL coach Jason Kreis said about the choice to keep Gil out of the game Real lost 1-0. "I think he could have been somebody who could have made a difference."
Gil was back on the field Saturday night, making important plays on both sides of the ball and helping his undermanned team to a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. And if RSL is to make a push for the Supporters' Shield down the stretch, RSL will need the youngster to continue his high level of play.
After Javier Morales picked up a second-half yellow card Saturday night that will cause him to miss RSL's next game, Kreis said he expects Gil to slide into the attacking midfield role when the team travels to Portland for a crucial Western Conference game in two weeks.
It's the position Gil plays when he's away with the U.S. Under-20 national team, and it's the spot the teenager hopes to play for his club in the future.
"I feel comfortable" moving between the top and the side of Kreis' diamond midfield formation, Gil said. "You saw the Vancouver game [last weekend] where that was my first time playing at the top this year. I felt comfortable."
If you didn't see him in Canada, here is his coach's assessment: "He was electric."
"He's a guy, for me, that's kind of stepped ahead of some other players in the midfield and kind of shown that he's a guy that needs to be on the field," fellow midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "I like having him out there a lot. He's a guy I like to play with."
He still is just 19 years old, but Gil already is in his fourth season with RSL.
"He's gotten better every year," Grabavoy said. "It was never a question of his technical ability or the way he sees the game. It was just becoming a man and learning how to do some other things. ... I think that says a lot about him. You see a lot of young players come into the league and not grasp those things this quickly."
Gil won't turn 20 until next month. He hopes his team will be in the middle of a playoff run by then, with a Supporters' Shield already in hand.