DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Molde attacker Josh Gatt is finally back in uniform and contributing on the field after being sidelined by a seemingly endless string of unfortunate injuries.
More than three years after initially injuring his knee in late-June 2013, the 24 year-old Michigan native is looking to be ready to resume his playing career at the Norwegian club where he has spent the last five-plus years.
Gatt had been pictured on Molde's website participating in full, first-team workouts for the last few weeks, building anticipation that the lightening-fast winger was nearing a full recovery.
The wait was finally over on Sunday afternoon when he was selected for head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær's bench in the team's 4-2 league win over Odds BK. Even though he did not make it onto the field on Sunday, his inclusion on the available squad is a clear signal that he is not only physically recovered, but has shown enough in practice to be considered an option by Solskjær.
This was his first time in uniform since making a single, ill-fated, four-minute appearance in mid-2015 that ultimately led to his most recent knee surgery. His troubles started well before, with the initial injury in mid-2013 effectively setting off a chain of events that cost three years of what was, at the time, a highly promising career on an unmistakable upswing.
Despite not seeing any action on Sunday, Gatt did make his a successful return to the field one day later, not only playing the first half for Molde's reserve squad in their game against Brumunddal, but having a hand in both goals.
On their first - a 42nd-minute equalizer - Gatt showed his crossing ability from the wing is still in-tact, with Pape Paté Diouf finishing the chance. Then three minutes later, the American reportedly took on a pair of defenders while streaking into the area, forcing a penalty call which he himself converted from the spot to close out the half.
The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but more importantly, produced glimpses, albeit in Norway's third tier, of the dangerous attacker who had been viewed as one of the most promising hopes for the US team prior to his problems.
Molde has been highly supportive of Gatt throughout the entire ordeal, although his future with the team is far from certain as his current contract is set to end after this season. There have been no statements from the player or team regarding plans after the current season ends in November. Nevertheless, whether he stays with the team could depend on whether his physical recovery translates to on-field recovery of form as a player.
At 24 years old, he has more than enough time to resume his previous trajectory with Molde, and these early signs are reasons for optimism.
Gatt will likely see more action either on Saturday when Molde visits Stromsgodset, or one day later when the reserves travel to HamKam.