GATT READY TO BOOST U-20 SQUAD
When the US U-20 national team assembles in Florida next week, winger Josh Gatt will be looking to carry over his strong play at SCR Altach to the international stage.
Gatt, 19, signed his first professional contract last winter and joined Altach over the summer. Over the course of the season, he became a regular starter and an increasingly important player to the team.
With the Austrian leagues now at the winter break, Gatt has already scored four league goals for Altach even though he missed several games with an injury.
Gatt's strong season has resulted in an invitation from US U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen to be part of the December camp. It will mark the first international appearance for Gatt at any level and he is very excited about the opportunity.
"When I first got the call I felt very excited because it's my first call-up and my first chance to play with the national team," Gatt told YA on Thursday. "I've always wanted to play for the national team. It's what every US kid strives for. It's great that it came at such a critical time with the 2011 World Cup coming up."
Prior to getting that call, Gatt had heard rumors that he might be receiving a invitation to join the national team and was excited when it finally arrived. He remains confident in his abilities to contribute to the team.
"I feel great," Gatt said of how he feels heading into the camp. "I am in the best shape of my life from the past season. I feel like I've worked very hard and have improved greatly. I am really looking forward in getting the chance to get there and play against some of these other great US players to see where I stack up."
Seven months ago when Gatt arrived in Austria, he was a versatile player with no true set position. Now, however, he has settled in as a pure winger that can play either on the left or the right side. He feels his flexibility to play any position up front can be an asset to the national team.
"For Altach, we normally play a 4-2-3-1 and I normally play right or left wing on the three-part," Gatt described. "I switch between right and left. I play wide but I am very attacking but I also track back. I am expecting to play there for the national team because that is where I play my best but wherever they would need me to play I would be willing to go there. But I strongly hope they will be playing me on the wing."
Gatt's good run of play comes at a crucial time when Altach are in a position to push for promotion to the Austrian Bundesliga, the top league in the country. The club currently sits in second place and trail first place Admira by only three points with only the top team earning promotion.
When the second half of the season resumes at the end of February, Gatt is confident Altach can pass Admira and win the league.
"I feel that our team, even though we came up with a loss in our last game, hit a really good stride recently," Gatt said with confidence. "We were really clicking and I think that we are going to have a great chance to win [the league] and make it to the first division."
As for personal development, Gatt is satisfied with the strides that he made in Austria and is happy with his decision to bypass an NCAA career at Indiana and turn professional. The coaching at the professional ranks in Europe has made a significant difference in his game and Gatt notices the specific differences.
"I can say that the coaching has been phenomenal for me," Gatt pointed out. "They took me pretty much very raw and really fine-tuned a lot of my game for me. It really helped me out. Since I've been here I've really developed a complete one and two touch game that I never needed playing in the States because I would just run past people."
"I would always think about dribbling and not passing," he added. "They've created a whole one-two touch game for me. It also really focused me on playing solid defense. I feel like my defense has improved tremendously."
For now, Gatt looks forward to showing off his more polished game in his first international setting next week in front of Rongen and the US staff. While he has never spoken to Rongen personally, Gatt knows that the U-20 coach has an attacking style that matches the way he plays the game perfectly.
"All I know is that he's really looking forward to having me coming because I have a similar style of play towards his attacking style," Gatt said of Rongen.
Gatt and the US U-20 national team will open camp on Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and will play two games against Canada on the 16th and 18th. He will resume play with Altach on February 25th when they take on last place First Vienna.