Postcard from Europe: Gatt celebrates as Molde win crown
AMSTERDAM — If you happen to bump into Molde FK right-sider Josh Gatt while he's back home in Michigan this week and he just somehow looks more regal, do not rub your eyes. In case you hadn't heard, the kid is now Norwegian royalty.
Gatt and motley Molde have raided the castle in the Tippeligaen to rule the top flight for the first time. Despite having to watch the clincher injured, the 20-year-old who would be king took the throne after Brann defeated holders Rosenborg on Sunday night.
There was the locker room party, and then the one that followed with what seemed like the entire 24,795 population of Molde. After posting a home draw on Sunday evening, all the 100-year-old club and its subjects had to do was wait a little while longer as Brann blew out their game in the second half.
"Because of how bad Rosenborg was losing, we knew for about 45 minutes that we were going to win the league, ready to celebrate," Gatt told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. "Once the final whistle blows, the locker room explodes, like a World Series win.
"The whole town went crazy. We had a big celebration. Everyone was there. It was something I'd never experienced in my whole life. It was unbelievable."
It was one spectacular reward for a guy just set to finish his first complete pro season. Still, he seems more pleased for the players who've been there, like skipper Daniel Berg Hestad, a veteran of well over 400 league matches with Molde.
"For me, it was beyond great, but I can't even imagine what it was like for the older players," Gatt said. "I haven't been this happy in a long time, without the worries and stress. We're celebrating the first gold [medal] ever and it's phenomenal."
Above all the joy, the natural winger has broadened his game with stints at right back, becoming a better player than he was at the start of the campaign in March. Yet, neither that nor the title is what he'll remember foremost from this season. With prior employers Altach in Austria, Gatt moved to Molde in their midseason.
"It was nice to be able to be a part of the team through a whole season," he said. "It's great to see the same guys all season and watch them develop. In the end, it all worked out for us. It's been a great first full season."
Not even that recent hamstring setback can dampen Gatt's royal parade.
"I feel a lot better," he said. "I've been doing a lot of treatments and getting myself prepared, even though I won't be playing any more games [for Molde this season]. There's no point in risking it."
Winning the title also means Gatt can turn some attention to US national team matters. Though a bit bummed to miss out on the forthcoming initial Olympic team camp led by new Under-23 boss Caleb Porter, he will be there.
"I won't be able to play, but I'm looking forward to attending and just being part of the team, being supportive," he said. "I might be able to be ready to go when January camp comes around. I haven't had a chance to talk to [Jurgen Klinsmann], but I have heard a couple times how I was close to call-ups. I hope I'll be able to join them for the first time in January."
But such talk is for later, when he's fit again to terrorize wingbacks, darting about with obscene pace. Today, the king has returned home. He's going to hang out with his mom and he's going to stay level-headed thinking about the chance to play for the United States or the chance to battle in Champions League qualifying next fall.
"Obviously, we've been talking about that," admitted Gatt. "It's pretty cool. I think, if we're going to compete, we need to as a team get a lot better. We had a great season, but we really need to step it up.”
Yeah. It's good to be the king.