No signing is ever a sure thing in Major League Soccer – even some of the most high-profile stars have failed to live up to expectations upon arrival – but there was a healthy dose of excitement when the New England Revolution announced the capture of Carles Gil two years ago today, on January 30, 2019.
Gil had experience at the game’s highest levels, having featured in both La Liga and the English Premier League, and at 26 years old he was just entering his prime. A creative attacking midfielder given a DP contract, there was an air of anticipation around the Gil signing from the outset.
His introductory video – shot moments after he’d joined up with the Revs at their team hotel in Marbella, Spain, where they were in the midst of preseason camp – only served to build the hype.
That hype continued to grow once Gil stepped onto the field two days later, as he registered an assist just 35 minutes into his preseason debut against FC Viktoria Plzeň, sliding a through ball into the path of Cristian Penilla to set up a calm finish. Five days later he had his first goal in a Revolution jersey, blasting home the game winner from 25 yards in a 3-1 victory over FC Dynamo Kyiv.
It was an admittedly small sample size, but those early returns – one goal and one assist in 90 minutes against a pair of clubs featuring in the UEFA Europa League – revealed a glimpse of Gil’s potential.
Less than a month later, Gil was making his MLS debut in the Revolution’s season opener at FC Dallas. It was a bitterly cold, raw day in Frisco, and the hosts raced out to a halftime lead. But early in the second half Gil flashed the calmness and composure that Revolution fans have since come to expect, as he fired home the equalizing goal at the near post to claim a point for New England.
It was a harbinger of things to come in what proved to be a magical 2019 season.
If Gil hadn’t already endeared himself to the Revolution faithful, he certainly did two weeks later at Toronto FC. The crafty Spaniard scored both of New England’s goals at BMO Field, and although the Revs lost, 3-2, following a controversial VAR decision, Gil gave us one of the most GIF-able goal celebrations in Revolution history.
Although the Revs struggled for results through the first half of that season, Gil had sufficiently announced himself with three goals through his first three games, before eventually taking on the captaincy in early May. And following the arrival of Bruce Arena as sporting director and head coach in mid-May, things really took off.
Gil assisted on both goals in Arena’s coaching debut in early June – a 2-1 win at the LA Galaxy – immediately earning the trust of his new boss. Gustavo Bou then arrived in mid-July, and a beautiful partnership formed right before our eyes.
It took just 45 minutes for Gil and Bou to link up on this stunner against the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the duo went on to combine on several more goals in the coming months.
A remarkable summer unfolded for Gil, who at one point registered five goals and 12 assists in a 15-game stretch, including a string of three straight games with both a goal and an assist in late July. There were late equalizing penalties at both Seattle and Portland, and another two-assist showing in Orlando.
Gil’s performances not only helped lead the Revs back to the postseason for the first time in four years, but they also earned him individual accolades at the league level. With a remarkable 10 goals and 14 assists, Gil was named MLS Newcomer of the Year and landed on the MLS Best XI.
Safe to say, Gil had lived up to the expectations.
Those expectations only grew as Gil entered year two in 2020, but after playing all but eight minutes in 2019, there was a snag as injury kept him sidelined for all of preseason and the first two games on the schedule, before the league took a pandemic-induced hiatus in mid-March.
That break offered Gil the chance to rehab and he returned to the field for the Revolution’s MLS is Back Tournament opener on July 9, putting together a dominant performance and assisting on Gustavo Bou’s game winner in the Revs’ 1-0 victory over the Impact.
But Gil’s return was short-lived, as he played just 62 minutes in the Revolution’s next match against D.C. United before limping off with the same injury. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Gil had undergone surgery to debride his left Achilles tendon, a procedure expected to sideline him for 3-5 months.
The anticipated timeline meant that Gil would likely miss the remainder of the 2020 season, and best case, might return at some point during the playoffs. But Gil, of course, defied those expectations, returning less than three months later in the Revolution’s 1-1 draw at Nashville SC.
Gil had undergone surgery on August 4, and was back on the field on October 23.
The question at hand, having played just 152 competitive minutes over the previous 12 months, was whether Gil would be at the top of his game come playoff time. That question was answered almost immediately.
A sumptuous volley opened the scoring against the Impact before Gil assisted both goals in the Revs’ 2-0 win over Supporters’ Shield champs Philadelphia. He then scored from the penalty spot and helped set up two other goals in New England’s 3-1 win over Orlando.
In short, Carles Gil was back.
Now, on the two-year anniversary of Gil’s signing, we reminisce about his remarkable first two seasons in a Revolution jersey, while waiting with anticipation to see what’s to come in year three and beyond.