Orlando City has officially announced the Luis Gil signing via loan from Querétaro FC.
As first reported by ESPN and FOX Sports West reporter Julie Stewart-Binks, the Orlando Sentinel confirmed last night that former Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil will return to Major League Soccer with Orlando City SC. Gil has been with Querétaro FC of Liga MX since signing with the Mexican club prior to the 2016 season.
“Luis offers us another attacking threat and will fit in nicely with our squad,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said. “[Head coach Jason Kreis] spoke very highly of Luis from his time at Real Salt Lake and we’re excited for him to join the team.”
As part of the deal, Orlando City will have an option to purchase at the end of the 2017 MLS season. To pacify Real Salt Lake — the club that owned Gil’s MLS rights — the Lions will send $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money to RSL in 2018, and that total drops to $50,000 if Gil doesn’t remain with Orlando.
Gil, 23, is familiar with Jason Kreis, having played under Orlando City’s gaffer from 2010-2013 at Real Salt Lake. He had his best statistical season under Kreis in 2013, when he scored five of his 11 career MLS goals in 30 matches (24 starts), adding three assists. Gil has 134 MLS appearances (89 starts) under his belt, with 11 goals and nine assists. He’s received five career yellow cards. He also brings 11 league playoff appearances (six starts) but did not register a postseason goal or assist.
No stranger to Florida, Gil attended the U.S. Soccer program at IMG Academy in Bradenton from 2008-2009. He grew up playing for Southern California youth club power Pateadores. A native of Garden Grove, CA, Gil has two career caps with the USMNT and has also represented the U.S. at the U-17, U-18, U-20, and U-23 levels. He scored 15 youth international goals in 61 appearances and made his first appearance for the senior USMNT on Feb. 1, 2014 off the bench late in a win over Korea Republic.
Gil turned professional in 2010, signing a Generation Adidas contract with MLS despite interest from multiple European clubs, including Arsenal. His rights were won by the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) in a weighted lottery on Feb. 22, 2010, and he was traded the next day to RSL in exchange for a 2011 MLS SuperDraft pick, an international roster slot, and future transfer fee considerations.
In 2010, Gil failed to see the field in an MLS match for Real Salt Lake, but he did appear with the first team in U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches. RSL loaned Gil to AC St. Louis that year, where he made nine appearances (five starts), scoring once. His first professional goal came Sept. 18, 2010 against Austin – the game winner in a 2-1 victory. Gil became an RSL regular in 2011, starting 14 times in 25 appearances, netting two goals, including his first MLS tally Aug. 6, 2011 against New York Red Bulls.
Gil scored one goal in 29 games (19 starts) in 2012, but blossomed in 2013 – Kreis’ final season in Utah.
Since joining Querétaro FC, Gil has struggled to get first-team minutes, appearing in 10 matches and notching two assists without a goal. According to Transfermarkt.com, Gil has played 10 games, amassing 505 minutes with Queretaro.
What This Means for Orlando City
In some respects, Orlando City seems to have the requisite depth in the midfield. Gil has never been a prolific scorer and may be something of a cross between a central midfielder and an attacking player.
However, Gil’s five-goal, three-assist performance in 2013, combined with his young age, suggests that he can develop into a more prolific front line attacking player for the future. The Lions have an aging attacking midfield, with Kaká (34), Matias Perez Garcia (32), and Giles Barnes (28) all 28 or older. The gap between those top three players and Danny Deakin (23), Richie Laryea (22), and Pierre Da Silva (18) is wide, so a more seasoned option like Gil makes sense.
Gil’s presence will enable players like Da Silva and Laryea to concentrate on improving their game with OCB. With the senior team, Gil could make spot starts or come off the bench at either the left or right attacking midfield position.
Why You Should/Shouldn’t Like the Move
I like this move. Having a younger option in the attacking midfield who is familiar with Kreis’ personality, tactics, and expectations, and who also has a great deal of MLS experience, has to be a positive for Orlando City. As mentioned above, he can either start for some of the older attacking players to allow them to come on later and be at their best when the other team is tired, or he can come off the bench and provide energy of his own.
It’s encouraging that his best season came in his most recent one under Kreis’ tutelage. He’s a versatile player who could slide in and provide depth in multiple spots. And he could further develop into a player that could take over after some of the older midfielders on the roster move on.
He doesn’t require an international slot, and it didn’t cost an awful lot to land him.
I can see why some might not be impressed with this transfer. The Lions need more offense and Gil isn’t a player that’s been prolific in his career. He has been described as a ‘tweener’ who isn’t quite an attacking midfielder and yet doesn’t necessarily embody the best attributes of a central midfielder either.
His presence could delay the development of guys like Laryea or Da Silva, who might otherwise get battle tested earlier if Gil weren’t on the roster. He also failed to distinguish himself in Liga MX. And sometimes the word “versatile” can be used on guys who are good at multiple things but not truly great in any one area. Let’s hope that’s not the case with Gil.