Former Real Salt Lake midfielder and current United States U-23 stalwart Luis Gil officially transferred to Liga MX side Queretaro today. It's a move that will likely make or break his professional soccer career.
Gil has been in an impossible situation with RSL the last two plus years. Being the heir apparent to one of the best playmakers Major League Soccer has ever seen, Javier Morales, seems like a pretty great spot to be in as a young player. However, what was supposed to be an understudy role quickly evolved into the American playing second fiddle to a club legend that wasn't leaving anytime soon.
With Morales guaranteed a spot in the RSL midfield as their No. 10, Gil was relegated to bench duty and starting in roles that were not fit to his strengths. The 22-year-old has spent the better part of the last three seasons struggling for playing time and finding it difficult to make an impact whenever he did get on the field. It's unfair to blame all of his issues on playing out of position or a lack of minutes, but his U.S. youth national team performances paint a different picture than his club ones.
For the U.S. U-20 and U-23 teams, Gil has enjoyed plenty of high moments in his short career like scoring a phenomenal goal against Spain in the U-20 World Cup in 2013 or captaining the U-23 team in Olympic qualifying. In the majority of his appearances he's been allowed to be the main attacking midfielder and has shown quite well. That's in contrast to playing on the outside of the diamond formation with RSL and struggling.
Moving to Queretaro is a bold move for the youngster, but one that was needed. Back in 2010, Gil was 16 years old and dubbed the next big thing in U.S. Soccer. Many expected him to sign with a club in Europe, but instead of waiting until he turned 18, he signed with MLS. His quality as a soccer player is obvious, unfortunately he was never able to sustain that quality into concrete production for RSL, amassing just 11 goals and 9 assists in 134 appearances for the club. Heading to a new challenge and to a league with a completely different style could do wonders for him.
Without starting a league vs. league war, it's safe to declare that Liga MX probably values technical players more than MLS, where strength and pace reign supreme. Gil has the technical quality to succeed in a league that allows their players time and space on the ball for individuality. MLS just wasn't the right fit for him for stylistic reasons. He's proved with the U.S. youth teams that he can shine in the right environment. Hopefully for the sake of his career this move will enhance his abilities and give him the best chance to succeed.
At just 22 years old, it's naive to say that he needs to revive his career, but when he's been a professional for so long, it's come to a point where that statement isn't as crazy as it sounds. This move will likely be deciding factor on if he ever lives up to his massive potential or not.