Some people may not have known who Carles Gil was at the start of the season, but they do now. Major League Soccer named Gil the Newcomer of the Year Wednesday, capping an outstanding first regular season in New England.
When the New England Revolution acquired Gil — in what was then a club-record transfer from Deportivo de La Coruña — nobody knew exactly what to expect from him.
Yes, he was a Designated Player signing. Yes, he played in La Liga and the English Premier League. Yes, he was just 26 years old and coming from Spain's second division.
Admittedly, I didn't know much more about him when news broke of his move to New England on January 30. So what do you do when you need info? You google it. A YouTube video pops up. I saw a stunning strike for Aston Villa in the FA Cup a few seasons ago. Great. Cool. Nice. The Revs got a young talented player with top-flight experience and a highlight reel goal on the web. But what did that really mean for Gil and the Revs? Nobody could answer that question.
Fast forward to today. Gil is one of four MLS players this season with double-digit goals and assists. Only one player — in historic fashion — had more combined goals and primary assists in 2019. LAFC's Carlos Vela, who is a lock to win MLS MVP, had a record-breaking goal-scoring season on a record-breaking team. In any other season, Gil may have been in the mix for more than just the award for the best debut season in MLS.
I wonder what Gil's MVP candidacy would be with a full season of Gustavo Bou on the roster, but La Pantera has only 14 games with the Spaniard.
Gil's ability to score and create goals might be matched by his durability. He started all 34 matches this season with a target on his back. Just 2 players in the league suffered more fouls this season than the Revs midfielder. Hack-a-Gil did not work.
Carles still scored. Carles still assisted. Carles still played. He was subbed off just once and missed a grand total of eight whole minutes.
His production was impressive, but so was his leadership on the field. Gil earned the captain's arm band in May shortly after the Revs shook up the coaching staff and front office, and he never looked back.
He's been the team's captain for the final 23 matches of the season en route to the team's first playoff berth since 2015, all while leading the team in both goals and assists. That's an achievent taller than Tacko Fall for any player, let alone a newcomer from Valencia, Spain, who had to adjust to a new league, a new country, and a new culture.
I'll take Gil's goals, assists, and leadership seven days a week and twice on matchday. Those are all great. But what makes him so different from other talented players is the one thing he does to help his team win — everything.
Gil will do it all. He will do the dirty work. He will track back. He will defend. He will get down and dirty. He's a shark on the field who wants the ball at all times. And if he doesn't have it, then he'll go get it.
The relentless midfielder led the league in possessions won in the final-third. The next closest player had just over half as many. And If you couldn't take the ball away from him, he would make you pay for it. No other player had more successful passes ending in the final-third. He's dangerous in dangerous spots. And if he wasn't either of those, he would find a way to make sure he was. Mwah. Me gusta Carles Gil.
Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena wasn't quite as affectionate when speaking about Gil this week, but he sure was just as complimentary.
"To have a player with that kind of quality on your team is great. He's an excellent passer and he can score goals. He can defend, which often you don't see that out of players that play the kind of role he plays. He keeps the ball. He's a very good possession player as well. He does whatever the game asks of him. If that means tracking back into the defensive third, he does that. You rarely see that with a player of Carles' caliber. He's got a great mentality to be a team player as well as being an extremely talented player."
It's been 259 days since the Revs added Gil and I finally learned what his addtion means: The Revs made the biggest offseason move in MLS and I am head over heels for Carles Gil.
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