He sped down the left wing at Rio Tinto Stadium Tues. Aug. 12 late on against Club Tijuana of Mexico, looking to cause trouble. His eyes shifted quickly as he retreated from his position of left back and moved into his team's attack. Frankly, his country has seen enough trouble to last a lifetime lately, as it deals with an Ebola virus epidemic sweeping through and past, its borders.
His first touch hasn't been there of late either, caught in a no man's land between his instep and his big toe--looking for a place to rest, but not resting where it needs to be resting on his heel. So when the ball was re-directed out towards an onrushing Abdoulie Mansally of Gambia, RSL's left back in question, you had to wonder what might happen next.
Would Mansally botch yet another play? Would his first touch betray him like it did when RSL last played a game against D.C. United, squirting off into his opponent? It certainly can't be easy to forget about all of that death, and dying, but that's Mansally's job now. Like doctors whose job it is to administer help to the sick and suffering in Africa, Mansally's is to take care of the ball.
The ball was a pain in RSL's backside on Tuesday night, skidding along Rio Tinto's grass surface at certain points in the match and sloshing to a complete stop during other junctures. The game was a sloppy mess all night long in part to torrential rains pelting the turf, along with heavy winds blowing the ball--and the 13,000-plus fans in attendance--from here to Kingdom Come.
The weather itself was not conducive to a good game of soccer, and neither were the visitors from TJ who time and again slammed their bodies into RSL's, in a game most were calling a friendly. Nothing about the 16 fouls Xolos committed, along with three yellow cards, seemed friendly.
On this play though, the ball was friendly enough to Mansally, who managed to chip the ball over his left shoulder between two Xolos defenders and into the Xolos' penalty box. The ball spun off of Mansally's foot onto the wet turf, almost dying its own death after it collected momentum flying into the air.
That's when Luis Gil got hold of the ball, collecting Mansally's delicate chip with his toe as he pulled it towards his body. It all happened so fast, the ball didn't know what to do. It took a weird spin as it slogged against the turf, resting between two other Xolos defenders who at this point in the game were just fighting to maintain a 1-0 lead.
It was the 88th minute, and after the ball had spun weirdly and taken a second exhausting bounce on the heavy turf, Gil took this ball on its second bounce and launched a half-volley towards the far post.
Keep in mind that up to this point, Gil had already tried to command this spinning, sloshy ball five times, hitting the post twice. If he was lucky, this shot he just took would hit the post, too.
But the rains had settled somewhat by this point in the game. Xolos had just taken the lead on a goal not unlike the one Gil was trying to take now, 11 minutes earlier. The game had opened up considerably since the two teams combined for 29 total fouls and five yellow cards.
Not only that, RSL was getting forward at will now. Xolos were wearing out fast from the altitude and humidity that a rainy night in a mountainous region brings you. Gil was just as dangerous now in the 88th, as he was when this game kicked off.
Gil was hungry. He was due. It can't be easy when you're stuck on the bench behind guys like Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy and Luke Mulholland--and you've only scored twice all season. That's precisely why Gil needed this shot to go in.
Mansally's chip was perfectly placed between the two Xolos defenders. His eyes trained on the ball, Gil took this whirling dervish and laced into it. Based on the events preceding this momentous occasion, the ball had no choice but to go where Gil wanted.
“I don’t know. All I was thinking was just hit it – get some contact on it. I created some space, and when I got that space I felt like I had a lot open. You’ve just got to take chances," Gil said post-game.
Gil's shot flew past the Xolos goalkeeper, who tried to make a reaction save to his left. At this point, you'd have to think Gil didn't care about the ball's feelings, nor the keeper he was trying to beat. That ball slammed into the upper left corner of Xolos net, giving RSL a 1-1 draw during a friendly match that didn't seem all that friendly.