When Carles Gil joined the New England Revolution in 2019, the move was a bit of a reclamation project for both. The Revolution hadn't qualified for Major League Soccer's playoffs since 2016 while Gil was coming off of a disappointing season with Deportivo de La Coruña during which he had only played in 18 games. There can be many paths to MLS, but Gil to New England was a symbiotic partnership from Day 1. It was a risk for Gil as he didn't have a good understanding of the league outside of what he was told by others. But it turned out it was a risk worth taking for a career that needed a jump start.
Gil announced his arrival in MLS in a big way, scoring 10 goals and assisting on 12 more in the league. Talking to Luis Miguel Echegaray on the ¡Qué Golazo! podcast, Gil talked about how his arrival wasn't the only catalyst behind the Revolution's improvements as Bruce Arena arrived two months into his time with the team.
"Many things have changed," Gil said. "The mentality when Bruce came, he's a winner. He's a legend here. He tried to instill his winning mentality in the team. The club is improving every year [and] we have better players and more fans in the stadium [every day]. Hopefully, we continue like this."
The addition of a winning mentality from Arena was important. It changed things, and quickly. In the final two games under Brad Friedel, the Revolution conceded 11 goals and only scored one. Arena made an instant impact as the team only lost three more games during the entire 2018-19 season en route to a playoff berth. While the Revolution were knocked out in the first round by Atlanta United, the seeds of growth were planted. Another shift under Arena is that Gil was handed the captain's armband, showing that this was their team.
A pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season was furthered shortened by injury for Gil and the team struggled through difficult conditions, but after they limped into the playoffs, Gil got healthy and played a part in five goals leading to an unlikely semifinal appearance. The Revolution lost to eventual MLS Cup winners, Columbus Crew, but Arena's influence on the team couldn't have been clearer. It really is a vintage Arena season when a team is punched in the mouth, comes back, and goes on a hot streak and that semifinal run was a precursor for things to come this season.
Gil talked about the state of the team: "I always try to help my team win. I'm happy, I had an injury that was a bit difficult but I think we showed this year that we are a team. We had injuries [and] international breaks but the team always felt the same, we continued to win games. We don't care about who's playing [at] the moment, we win games [anyway]."
And win they did. The Revs broke the MLS single-season points record with 73 points. Gil ended the season as an MVP finalist with four goals and 11 assists and Matt Turner and Tajon Buchanan broke out on the league and international stages. This year has been a sign of a project coming together but it's important to note that they aren't done yet.
"For me [the playoffs are] a different competition. We've done the most difficult part because you play everyone in the regular season. Now it's one game and if you lose, you go home. One bad moment and you go home. So you need to be more focused. Playing at home is very good for us. We'll try to win because we want to win everything this year"
Gil will hope that this confidence will carry over so that New England can be there first team since Toronto FC in 2018 to win the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. Generally the grind of both competitions means that the hottest team coming into playoffs also wins MLS Cup but with the talent on the Revolution, they have a good chance at doing the double.
If they do win, it will come down to the performance of their captain but he's up to the task.
Head over to the ¡Qué Golazo! YouTube channel to catch the rest of the interview as Gil talks about Boston soccer culture and his time at Aston Villa.