Designated Player

The case for Carles Gil as Newcomer of the Year | “He’s just a quality, gifted player”

Carles Gil (2019, primary)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Michael Mancienne has spent more than a few mornings chasing Carles Gil around the training ground, doing whatever he can to slow down the shifty playmaker.

Sometimes, he admits, it’s best to just give up the fight.

“He’s hard to tackle. You can’t get close to him,” Mancienne said, noting Gil’s low center of gravity at just 5-foot-7. “Sometimes in training when you see him twisting and turning and you’re trying to tackle him, you just let him have the ball – you just say, ‘Go on, have it, Carles.’”

Thankfully for the New England Revolution, it’s been opposing defenders that Gil has been terrorizing since arriving stateside in January, taking Major League Soccer by storm to the tune of nine goals and 14 assists while starting each of the Revs’ first 31 games.

Gil’s 23 combined goals and assists are tops amongst MLS newcomers. His 14 assists are fourth in MLS, while his 12 primary assists are tied for most in the league with FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios. He’s third in chances created (98), tied for fifth in big chances created (14), and first in passes ending in the attacking third (897).

And in most of those categories, he’s far and away the leader amongst league newcomers.

“He’s just a quality, gifted player,” Juan Agudelo said of Gil. “The kind of balls you play to him, you know he’s going to be able to control them. If he faces up a player, you know he’s going to be able to beat him. There are a lot of runs off the ball I try to make, a lot of plays that I look to find him.”

Possessing that kind of quality is one thing – making the most of it in MLS is quite another. The first 24 years of Major League Soccer are rife with talented international players who couldn’t adapt, whether it be the travel, the climate, or the physicality that presented the sternest obstacles.

Gil, however, hasn’t had that issue. He scored on his debut at FC Dallas, added a brace in his third game at Toronto FC, and hasn’t looked back since.

The 26-year-old Spaniard has even taken on the captaincy, and he’s fully embraced the responsibility of being one of the Revolution’s leaders in the locker room, and their primary attacking catalyst on the field.

“Initially, when I first got here, they gave me a huge boost of confidence, which is what I was lacking when I was previously playing at (Deportivo La Coruña),” Gil said via interpreter. “That’s the kind of player I am. I need the coach to trust me, to let me play where I play the best, and to let me do what I do best on the field.

“The other thing is, my teammates, they welcomed me with open arms. They make me feel at ease. That, to me, has a lot to do with how well I’ve adapted to the league.”

Gil, who spent two years with Aston Villa in the English Premier League, has a strong grasp of the English language, but the presence of 12 teammates on the Revolution roster who speak Spanish also helped make the club immediately feel like home.

“Culturally, he wasn’t overwhelmed, because we have so many South American and Spanish-speaking players here that allowed for a smoother transition,” said sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. “He’s obviously pretty mature.”

Gil hasn’t been overwhelmed by the transition to MLS, but he has been overwhelming for opponents, using a combination of skill and intellect to create chances at a remarkable rate.

“He’s just always got a plan in his head,” Mancienne said of Gil. “Before he’s got the ball, he knows what he wants to do with it.”

What he usually wants to do with it is attack and create chances, something Gil has done better than any other newcomer in Major League Soccer this season.