NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the New England Revolution announced on August 6 that club captain Carles Gil had undergone surgery to debride his left Achilles tendon – a procedure that was expected to require a 3-5 month recovery period – conventional wisdom said he was likely done for the season.
But Carles Gil is far from conventional, a fact driven home on Friday night when the reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year made his return as a 63rd-minute substitute in the Revs’ 1-1 draw at Nashville SC, stepping back onto the field just two months and 20 days after surgery.
“I’m really happy to have this feeling of being back with my teammates. It’s incredible,” Gil said via translator after his 27-minute stint on a rainy night in the Music City. “I’ve worked really hard for this moment. The past two months, two-and-a-half months, were tough on me. But I’m happy to be playing again.”
Gil’s accelerated road to recovery wasn’t luck, but rather the result of a concerted effort by the 27-year-old playmaker to get himself healthy as quickly as possible. The procedure was completed on August 4 in Spain and Gil stayed there for more than two months working with his personal trainer before returning to Foxborough last week for the final phase of the process.
“When I got injured, my goal was to work as hard as possible to return sooner than expected,” said Gil. “I owe a lot to my personal trainer in Spain. This wouldn’t have been possible without him. We worked really hard for two-and-a-half months in Spain. My intention was to get back.
“I’m here with four or five games left on the schedule. I’m not there yet physically. My head was seeing things that my legs weren’t ready for, but that’s normal. I hope to be back to normal in a few games.”
There were glimpses of Gil’s quality on Friday night as he made his first appearance since July 17 at the MLS is Back Tournament, but he’ll need time to approach something resembling top form having had very limited training opportunities with his teammates ahead of the trip to Nashville.
That’s why head coach Bruce Arena felt it was important to get Gil onto the field at Nissan Stadium, as he builds towards the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs set to begin in mid-November.
“Carles, we knew it was going to be a little bit challenging for him,” Arena said. “He hasn’t been back that long, but we’ve got to get him on the field. The only way you’re going to get yourself back in form in our sport is by playing games. You can only do so much in practice. He’s worked hard coming back during his quarantine, but we’ve got to get him on the field to get him ready.
“It’s encouraging [to see him return]. Hopefully, in a couple weeks we’re going to get the real Carles out there, because it’s difficult being away so long and throwing him in a game like that. Overall, I think he did fine. We know it’s just going to get better and better.”
By getting Gil significant minutes now, the Revs are preparing him to potentially play a bigger role once the playoffs begin. But in the meantime, his presence is already being felt by his teammates, who’ve received a shot of energy just having their captain back in the squad.
“It’s huge,” Scott Caldwell said of Gil’s return. “I was very excited to see him get back, be healthy, and step on the field again. It’s great to have him on the field, not just soccer-wise, but emotionally for the group. He’s a leader for us on and off the field and someone who can really be a game-changer, so we’re really excited to have him back.”