BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, January 14, 2011
With the January transfer window now open, one of Americans on the move is US U-20 winger Josh Gatt who has left SCR Altach of the second division in Austria for Norwegian Eliteserien club Molde.
Gatt, 19, came to terms with Molde earlier this week and will now play under former Manchester United legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjær who he feels will help improve him as a player.
"I'm really excited for it," Gatt told YA from Molde. "I think it's the best move for me at the time. I have to thank everyone at Altach for giving me the chance and helping making me the play that I am. But I am really looking forward to the training I am going to get from the legend Mr. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I think they are just going to make me into a new and phenomenal player."
Gatt's move was surprising in some regards because Altach was in the middle of a fight for promotion to the Austrian Bundesliga and Gatt was one of the club's top players. With the Plymouth, Michigan native departing, it will certainly make promotion more difficult.
"It was kind of bittersweet," Gatt admitted. "I feel a little disappointed I have to leave my team halfway through the season and especially after I got a good run of games with some goals. But at the same time I am just really excited for my future. I am really happy to be where I am right now."
One of the reasons why Gatt is so happy is largely due to the opportunity of working with Solskjær who was an elite player during his time and has a lot to offer as a teacher after coaching the Manchester United reserves since 2008. It was Solskjær himself that recruited Gatt for Molde.
"It's a huge honor to be wanted by such a legend," Gatt said of Solskjær. "I know it's his first year as a coach so I know there is a little pressure on him to perform and for me considering he bought me with trust to help the team. I know I am going to do everything I can to really be the best player I can be for him. I know that he can really teach me the fundamentals of everything I need to know."
Gatt arrives in Norway after a solid half season with Altach and he knows what he has to do work on in order to continue to grow as player.
"The biggest thing is for me to work on my finishing from outside the box and to work on my shooting strength and accuracy overall," Gatt evaluated. "Also, I have to just continue to work on the stuff that I've been working on - my one and two touch passing. With Ole as my coach he can be the one guy to teach me how to finish from anywhere on the field."
Gatt has lofty expectations for himself at his new club. After he signed with Altach during his senior year of high school, he wanted to become an immediate starter with his first professional club.
Even now in moving up to a higher division only five months into his pro career, Gatt expects the same.
"Whatever team I ever end up going to, I strive to become the best player so that I do see the field," Gatt said of himself. "I've never been a player that likes to watch at all. I'm really hoping to work hard this preseason and hopefully by the season opener I'll be starting for the club. That's what I'm looking to do."
"My own personal goal is to win every time I step out on the field," he continued. "If that's how it goes, I expect us to finish in first place. My goal is to come to Norway and hopefully end the season in first place. It's a big goal but it's a goal I think we can reach."
The style of play that Gatt expects to play under Solskjær is one that fits his strengths as a player. Gatt prefers to play in an up-tempo style and that is how Solskjær played his young team at Manchester United.
"He wants a very fast and direct style of play," Gatt described. "He picked up some great midfield passers to help feed the forwards. He's really looking for a high pressure game from the speed we have. We just want to put a lot of pressure on the other team."
Gatt's move to Molde has also come on heels of another significant even his career. Last month, he took part in a U-20 camp which was the first time he represented the United States internationally at any level.
For his debut camp, he came away with the quality of his new American teammates - most of whom he had never met.
"With the team that was there, I was very impressed with a lot of the talent that I saw there," Gatt pointed out. "I didn't really know what to expect because it was my first camp. But a lot of those guys have been there many times. I kind of came in, even with the experience I had overseas, as a rookie. I had to earn my stripes on the team."
Establishing himself on the team did not take long. Gatt made his first start for the U-20s on December 20 against Canada and turned in one of the top performances by a U-20 player this cycle.
In that game, he scored twice and also had three assists in a 5-0 win. Part of the reason for his success was in the gameplan laid out by US head coach Thomas Rongen.
"Thomas has been working on a wide attacking game," Gatt analyzed. "He was trying to attack from the outside and really use a lot of the wing speed that we had to really break down Canada. I think it really paid off for us and me especially. I had a very good game but I couldn't have done it without my teammates. It was a great group of guys and it was a great experience."
More specifically, Rongen's style revolves around his use of the 4-3-3 formation which is different than the 4-4-2 usually played in the US at the youth levels. Against Canada with this formation, Gatt developed a solid chemistry with Conor Doyle and Joe Gyau who turned in a hat-trick.
Gatt is confident that this chemistry with his fellow forwards can continue.
"I like the 4-3-3," Gatt stated. "It's a lot of work when playing a forward role because you always have to be conscious of your defensive roles. But with the 4-3-3 I feel that we are able to really take down teams very quickly with the speed we have on the outside. With Conor Doyle being such a big holding striker it's really easy to play off of him and then play through diagonally with me or Joe Gyau getting in behind the other team. I think if we have things going on like that, we can have a lot of success."
As for how much success the team can have, Gatt is confident that if the team plays to their potential they can go a long way at this summer's World Cup in Colombia.
"Based on what I've heard and from what I've seen from the players I've played with I think that in Colombia if we gel, play like the team we can be, and play every game like it was our last we can really do some damage to these teams we will hopefully face in Colombia," he concluded.