Revolution coach Bruce Arena does not believe team captain Carles Gil paces himself on the field, despite his seemingly effortless movements.
“I don’t think that’s an accurate statement, I don’t think his style of play is to conserve energy,” Arena said. Tuesday. “He’s a very efficient player, if that’s what you’re saying.”
Whatever the semantics, Gil’s ability to retain possession certainly affects the dynamic of the game. Even if Gil is not taking a breather, he allows teammates to do so, along with inspiring them to make runs.
The Revolution have missed Gil’s direction in getting off to an 0-1-1 start. But Gil appears to have recovered from a foot injury and could return to action when the Revolution meet the Portland Timbers Sunday.
Gil, the Revolution’s leading scorer with 10 goals and an MLS Best XI selection last year, worked out at near full speed this week for the first time in more than a month.
“It’s too early to even decide if he’ll be part of our team on Sunday, let alone play 90 minutes,” Arena said.
Gil was optimistic, though.
“I feel good,” Gil said Tuesday. ”This is only the third practice that I’ve had with the team, but I feel good coming off the injury. We’ll take it day by day, little by little, and see how everything goes by the end of the week.
“I’m excited. We had a lot of hope at the start of the year and I know this is a big year for us. It was tough that, basically from the first week of the [preseason], I couldn’t train with the guys. But I’m excited to get out there and see what happens.”
The Revolution opened the scoring in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact and a 1-1 tie with the Chicago Fire, but misfired on last-minute point-blank opportunities in both games.
Gustavo Bou and newcomer Adam Buksa have formed an effective combination, but the addition of Gil is expected to kick their games up another notch.
“I think the team is doing well,” Gil said. “We had a lot of chances to win both games, especially the last one against Chicago. The team is getting better and better and but we’re on the right track.
“I never like to be out. It’s really been unpleasant. But I’ll be back at 100 percent as soon as possible.”
Morale boost in Italy
Italy’s Atalanta BC has become an unlikely Champions League quarterfinalist after Josep Ilicic scored all of the team’s goals in a 4-3 win over Valencia Tuesday. And the success of La Dea (Atalanta is named for a Greek goddess) has also raised morale in a country hit hard by the coronavirus.
Atalanta did not seem to belong in Champions League when it began with three defeats: 4-0 at Dinamo Zagreb, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk at home, and 5-1 at Manchester City. A 1-1 draw with Man City salvaged some pride, but the result also indicated that Atalanta could raise its game. On the final day of group play, Atalanta blanked Shakhtar, 3-0, in Donetsk, edging into the elimination round with a 2-3-1 mark (7 points), the only team with a losing record in the final 16.
Atalanta also was the lowest-valued squad to advance, at 331.6 million euros, less than a third of many of its potential future foes. But Atalanta is proving it belongs among Europe’s best, thanks to a wide-open attacking style and the performances of several low profile overachievers.
With coronavirus concerns shutting down Serie A and limiting activities in Italy, the exploits of Atalanta are taking on extra significance in Bergamo, a Lombard city of 120,000 population. At the entrance to the city hangs a handmade banner reading “Mola Mia” (Never Give Up), and Atalanta’s players replicated the motto for the cameras, holding up a T-shirt that read “Bergamo This is For You.”
Before the visit to Valencia, coach Gian Piero Gasperini called the match “the most important in the 112-year history of Atalanta” and noted “me and the team are stronger than the virus.”
But Valencia had plenty of support for the closed-door match, and thousands awaited outside Estadio Mestalla, hoping Atlanta’s first-leg 4-1 advantage would be overcome. Ilicic earned a third-minute penalty kick, finishing past Jasper Cillessen. After Kevin Gameiro equalized, Ilicic converted another penalty kick for a 2-1 Atalanta halftime lead. Ilicic scored again, after Gameiro and Ferran Torres had given Valencia a 3-2 advantage.
Late in the match, Ilicic appeared to be motioning for a substitute, and was about to depart. But in the 82d minute, Gasperini instead replaced Papu Gomez with Ruslan Malinovskyi. A minute later, Ilicic appeared to be limping as he ran onto a Duvan Zapata pass to score the fourth goal.
Ilicic, a teammate of the Revolution’s Antonio Delamea and Chicago Fire forward Robert Beric on NK Interblock’s 2009 Slovenian Cup champion, has scored 16 goals in his last 12 games.
Gasperini took over Atalanta in 2016, and revived a team that was competing in Serie B in 2011. This season, Atalanta has scored 70 goals and won games by scores of 7-1, 7-0, 7-2, plus two 5-0 decisions, uncharacteristic scores in Serie A.
The attacking style of Gasperini and Simone Inzaghi of Lazio (second in scoring with 60 goals) symbolizes a possible change in the Italian soccer mentality, though the transformation likely began with Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan in the late 1980s.
Even the opposition is appreciative. Lecce supporters applauded Atalanta off the field as their team was defeated, 7-2, on March 1.
Liverpool falls in OT
Reigning Champions League titlist Liverpool surrendered three goals in overtime in losing, 3-2, to Atletico Madrid in a Round of 16 match Wednesday. The Reds lost to Atletico, 1-0, in the first leg, but took the lead on scores by Georginio Wijnaldum (43d minute) and Roberto Firmino (94th). But Marcos Lorente countered off a poor clearance by goalkeeper Adrian (97th), finished again in the 106th minute, and substitute Alvaro Morata concluded the scoring in the 120th minute. Liverpool, which visits Everton Monday, is within 6 points of clinching the Premier League title, but has lost four of its last six games in all competitions.