Javier Morales will be rather conspicuously absent come our next match, which isn't for nearly two weeks. After picking up a yellow card for who-remembers-what* against FC Dallas, he'll be suspended for that one. It's a bit of a blow, certainly, and that's the nature of yellow card accumulation.
But you know, we're not in the worst of positions. Luis Gil, still not old enough to legally imbibe, has been steadily improving as the season's progressed. He's gone to the U-20 World Cup and was arguably the best player on that team, and he's grown into a genuine starting role for Real Salt Lake.
Gil's position at the side of the diamond doesn't always showcase his abilities to their fullest, but it gives him the strongest possible platform for success. He's not likely to replace Javier Morales on an ongoing basis any time soon, and he certainly won't improve by rarely playing. He's in a good state now, though perhaps a step down from the three "big name" starting midfielders around him. He's good enough to start for most MLS teams, and I'm convinced he's good enough to start for us. But he's far from the finished product.
If Gil does indeed replace Javier Morales, and we have every reason to think he will, it will give him another opportunity to showcase those skills at the top of the diamond, playing behind the striker and on either flank. We saw him do just that only a week and a few days ago against Vancouver; he looked every bit the leader he showed with his young comrades on the international stage. One might argue that it has as much to do with playing alongside younger, less-experienced players that invoked this leadership, and there's surely something to that.
But if we're to look at Saturday's draw against FC Dallas, we saw Gil looking as good as he did against Vancouver. The leadership responsibility was spread about more, as it always is with our "first team," and Gil was right in the thick of it. He was demanding the ball, getting forward well, and retreating when necessary; he was running at players, dribbling into dangerous areas, and by and large, creating opportunities with his movement.
It was a shame he had to be withdrawn, but considering that on the preceding Sunday, he'd undergone an emergency appendectomy, there's no surprise that his fitness was found to be slightly lacking.
That match against Portland could present another opportunity for Gil to lead Real Salt Lake to victory. He'll undoubtedly be playing alongside those experienced players, but his confidence should be sky-high right now. He's starting to show, after all, that's he's good enough to play there. Staying at the top of the diamond? That's an altogether different challenge.
* Further analysis reveals plenty of people remember what: Morales slid in on Acosta and caught him weakly but late -- I suppose that's enough for a yellow card, but it was a pretty innocuous challenge, if we're to be honest.