Gatt Rising at Molde

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 | View Comments
- Ben McCormick

Last month during the US U-20 trip to France, American fans were treated to something of a blast from the past. American winger Josh Gattowned the left wing, constantly running at defenders, making French Ligue 1 prospects look like traffic cones. I rubbed my eyes to be sure it wasn't Landon Donovan circa 2002. The strange thing, though, is that kind of behavior from his spectators is nothing new to Gatt, the 19 year old Molde FK winger, whose meteoric rise from internet message board blurb to full national team contender is almost unbelievable. In a paltry 482 days, Gatt has gone from another college soccer prospect to potential contributor to the US national team.

It all started in 2009 when Gatt's youth team traveled to Switzerland to play some European youth teams. His team went undefeated, and the day before he was to return home to Michigan, ready to attend college soccer powerhouse Indiana, Gatt was informed two European clubs wanted him to stick around to trial. The first was FSV Mainz 05 of the German Bundesliga, where he did not earn a contract. The second was Austrian second division side SCR Altach, the former club of American forward Nate Jaqua. Altach decided to offer him a contract, and Gatt chose to fulfill his dream of playing professional soccer rather than playing for Indiana University, a bold move considering the relative obscurity of the Erste Liga. That's when he became a mention on internet message boards.

The first part of the season saw Gatt become a permanent fixture in promotion-seeking Altach's lineup, notching five goals in fifteen appearances by the winter break. His stellar play earned him a call up to the US U-20 national team for a pair of friendlies against Canada in December. With many eyes fixed on him due to his status as a unknown to U-20 national team fans, Gatt dazzled, recording two goals and three assists in a 5-0 rout of Canada. Given Thomas Rongen's patented 4-3-3 formation, Gatt seemed to have found a place as a key member of the U-20 squad before his next club move made him unavailable for the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

Gatt's profile grew even more in American soccer less than a month after his performance against Canada when on January 12, Gatt completed a transfer to Molde FK of the Norwegian Tippeligaen. Gatt had been personally recruited by new manager and Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Gatt found himself plying his trade in the same league as fellow promising full national team prospect Mikkel "Mix" Diskerud, who plays for Stabek. In the young Norwegian season, Molde finds itself fifth in the table, only two points out of a Europa League berth. Despite missing some time in mid-May to be with the US U-20 team in France (where his deft touch, skill and quickness dwarfed his competitors), Gatt has made six appearances, scoring two goals, both of which came in a cup victory over third division side Tiller on May 25, his first goals for the club.

In the past, Gatt has cited finishing and distance shooting as his main areas of weakness, and there cannot be many better people to learn from in that department than Solskjaer. As he continues to improve his game under Solskjaer's tutelage at Molde, Gatt's name is certainly worth remembering in future full national team conversations. On the cusp of earning a regular place in Molde's starting XI, consistent playing time could land him a call up to Bob Bradley's annual January camp. Most certainly, though, he should figure prominently into the 2012 Olympic squad, which will be managed by someone to be determined after the conclusion of this summer's Gold Cup.

Full National Team Prognosis:

Position: Gatt can play on either wing, and given his time at left back for the U-20 team against France, it's safe to assume he would play on either side of the midfield in Bob Bradley's 4-4-2

Strengths: Explosiveness and dribbling. Reminds one of a young Landon Donovan.

Weaknesses: Aerial ability. At just 5'9, Gatt won't win many balls in the air at the full international level.

USMNT Potential: Could become a key member of the squad. His deadly combination of speed, dribbling and creativity are a rarity on any US team, and should he fulfill his potential, he would become an invaluable asset.

Estimated time until his first senior cap: 6-14 months

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