In 2019, Carles Gil was everywhere. The Spanish midfielder started every game and played all but eight minutes of his debut season in Major League Soccer, leading the Revolution in both goals and assists. He was named MLS Newcomer of the Year and was instrumental in New England reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
So far, 2020 has been a different story. Gil, 27, was limited by a foot injury throughout preseason, and the lingering issue kept him out of the first two Revolution games (New England went 0-1-1 without him).
Then came the league’s postponement because of COVID-19 on March 12. Like everything else affected by the pandemic, MLS has suffered drastic and unprecedented ramifications. No games, no practices, and no in-person contact for players so used to spending months of the season close together.
For Gil, the situation has been especially difficult. A native of Valencia, he has family and a girlfriend who are still in Spain. And because MLS mandated that players remain close to their teams in case the season can resume, he hasn’t been able to travel home since the lockdown began.
Spain has been hit hard by COVID-19, recording more than 27,000 deaths.
“Luckily, everything’s going well with my family,” Gil said in a recent interview. “Everyone’s healthy and safe. Naturally, it’s a little scary. The situation is tough, but I’ve stayed in touch with them, and everything’s good.”
“A lot of what I do is spend time talking with my family, a lot of video chat with my girlfriend,” Gil said of his quarantine routine.
The other dominant part of his day is training, which he can do indoors.
“The club has sent us some materials, a couple weights and things like that that have worked well for me,” Gil said. “I have a personal trainer from Spain that I try to work with every morning and some afternoons.”
Gil added that he doesn’t have a PlayStation, so video games such as FIFA — a favorite among some of his teammates — haven’t been an option. And while he admitted he watches his fair share of movies and television shows, the Revolution captain seems intent on hitting the ground running as soon as he’s allowed to return to the field.
“We’re all eager to get started, even more so with my situation because I missed the first two games of the season,” Gil said. “I think it’s an important season for the team and the club, and hopefully when we do get out there, we’ll be as ready as possible to get it rolling.”
Coming into the 2020 season, optimism permeated the Revolution in a way that hadn’t existed in years. After the team’s slow start in 2019, Bruce Arena — a five-time MLS Cup champion — was brought in as head coach and sporting director. He helped turn the season around, orchestrating new signings and restoring morale.
A playoff appearance at the end of 2019 was a culmination of a saved season. In the offseason, more additions were made and the club appeared poised for a strong season.
Gil was supposed to be the centerpiece of the resurgent Revolution, but he was sidelined the first two games. He had just returned to training when everything was put on hold.
“I started the season with a foot injury, and that kind of went on a little longer than I envisioned it would,” said Gil. “But right before they postponed the season, I was training with the team, and that all went well. If things were to pick up now, I think I’d be back out there.”
Recently, a Revolution statement said that the team is “working towards a plan” to allow players access to the club’s outdoor facilities for individual workouts. It could be the first step in a return to to games.
Exactly what a season return would look like is still to be determined. Gil says he misses the New England fans who embraced him so warmly in 2019. But as someone whose life straddles two countries heavily hit by COVID-19, he knows safety is the top priority.
“It’s a complicated situation,” he said. “We like to play in front of our fans. It’s important in soccer, and we play for them. It’s an important aspect of the club, but right now we have to accept the situation that we’re in, and that’s what we need to do to stay healthy and safe.”