Postcard from Europe: Gatt's dizzying journey
AMSTERDAM — At the pace he travels, you could certainly excuse Molde FK winger Josh Gatt for the odd dizzy spell. Less than a year removed from playing youth ball, the 19-year-old suddenly has a career path blazing like one of his torrid flank raids.
"I guess you could say the last six months or so have been quite a whirlwind," Gatt told MLSsoccer.com from Norway.
You could, indeed. Last spring, he was a prospect in suburban Detroit. Since then, Gatt has been tremendously busy, as any good winger should be.
See if you can keep up: He auditioned for Mainz 05, spurned Indiana University to sign with Austrian second-flighters Altach, bagged five goals in 14 games, hit for a pair of goals in his first two US Under-20 caps and finally, moved up to Norwegian top-flight side Molde in a real transfer.
"It's been pretty crazy," admitted Gatt, back in training after a few days in Austria to say Altach goodbyes and move his belongings. "I was just starting to settle into my career in Austria and now I'm moving to Norway. It's a bit overwhelming, but it's something I know I can handle."
He says there was talk of other interest in his services following a fine start to the season, but longtime suitors Molde were the only club to submit an offer. Despite training and bonding well with the Tippeligaen side since December, Gatt wasn't taking anything for granted about a move before the transfer proposal arrived at Altach.
"I knew there was interest [from Molde], but I didn't know if a bid was coming," he said. "I had also heard a couple of rumors about the Austrian first division, like Austria Vienna, but those were just rumors."
Now that he's signed, sealed and delivered, Gatt will try to go about things the same way he got here: on the fly.
[inline_node:325311]"The best thing I have to offer is speed on the wing," he said. "I was told, in Norway, not many [defenders] are used to a lot of speed up top. There's a lot of quick guys, but not really anybody very fast."
Overly speedy wingers may well be the last type of player that would need a great amount of time to adapt to a new league, even one a step up from before. More than any other, it seems, opponents must adjust to what they bring.
Nevertheless, Gatt knows speed alone won't make him a success at Molde. This is Norway, the defenders are Vikings and the new kid in town will need to develop physically.
"The thing I have to adapt to the most is the overall athleticism," he said. "Everybody here is much more athletic – bigger, stronger, quicker – than in Austria. The speed [of the game] is similar, but I need to adapt to everybody being one step quicker."
While new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær (yes, that Ole Gunnar Solskjær] has yet to spell out what he expects Gatt to accomplish during the upcoming Tippeligaen campaign, he has already motivated the youngster to shoot for a place in the lineup.
"He hasn't really talked to me about expectations for the season, but I know that he wants me to give 150 percent every training session, and be willing to live and die for the team," Gatt said. "I feel that I can do that because that's the way I play. It's all about the team first and me second.
"I think if I work hard enough, maybe I can earn a starting position by the beginning of the season. But it all depends on how I'm doing and how the guy next to me is doing."
Not merely content to be a game student with speed, Gatt is also ready to race into learning Norwegian on his own after rising a couple levels in German during his short time at Altach.
"I think I might get a tutor," he said of language lessons that are typically provided by clubs. "But everybody speaks perfect English, which makes it easy for me. I'm also going to keep up with the German because you never know when I'll come back to that [area]."
On top of that little bit of linguistic foresight, Gatt also has eyes ahead to this summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia. He was busy making the Molde move during coach Thomas Rongen's most recent camp, but was called in to the one prior and is expected to play a part in this 2011 American story.
"I'm definitely really excited for the World Cup coming up," stated Gatt. "That's one of the best stages for a kid my age to be on, and it's always been a dream of mine to play in a World Cup. That's a place where I could do it. Hopefully, in qualifying, we can do a good enough job."
For now, the teenager is making fast friends at Molde. Gatt has yet to experience game day at Aker Stadion, but from the locals already met, he imagines it will be electric.
"The impression I got so far is that everybody is really supportive of the team," he relayed. "The fans are happy I'm here, they've made me feel very welcome.
"Hopefully, we can be successful because this is a really good environment. I moved from one place where the fans were really nice to [one] another, and it's really helpful. It's even better [at Molde]. Of course, I'm going to miss everybody in Austria, but I think this move is the best for my career at this moment."
Gatt and Molde will open the 2011 Tippeligaen season with a Mar. 20 visit to Colin Burns' promoted Sarpsborg 08.