Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY DARRELL LOVELL
HOUSTON – In match that will be remembered for failed chances and missed opportunities, Joshua Gatt was one of the closest things to a silver lining for the U.S. Men’s National Team after Tuesday’s drab showing.
The Molde winger jolted a stagnant USMNT performance to life when he entered in the second half and promptly brought the speed and forcefulness that earned him a start in Russia three months ago. The speedster did his best to penetrate and create chances against a Canada defense that was intent on sitting in.
In the end Gatt’s probing performance, like the U.S. attack as a whole, was long on runs but short on legitimate chances created.
Heading into the Hexagonal, however, the winger’s performance as a second-half spark could very well have been an audition for the role he would likely play in a U.S. squad with his full assortment of weapons.
Accepting that assumption, Gatt likely left BBVA Compass Stadium with high marks on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s report card.
“Anything the coaches ask of me I want to do and I’m happy to do and I want to be the best at doing it,” Gatt told reporters. “I always do what’s asked of me with my team whether it’s coming off the bench as a sub or to start the game and play as many minutes as I can. [Tonight] my role is to come off the bench provide a spark and bring some energy.”
Gatt’s ability to get out and pressure defenses on the wing is no surprise for the faithful that follow his career in Norway. On Tuesday he showed an ability to beat defenders with pace, and get to the endline, though some of his moves ended in disappointing fashion.
Overall, Gatt’s performance provided a much needed lift against a young Canadian squad that was intent on making the things difficult by playing an ultra-defensive 4-5-1 formation.
“I thought in a friendly they would be tying to go forward and trying to attack a little more,” Gatt said. “Definitely tried my best to try and stretch Canada. They were very compact and very defensive.”
That mentality has made the winger a favorite among the U.S. fan base for his ability as a driving force, long since making him a popular call up target for fans. Until recently, however, those calls have been unfounded as the youngster developed touch and technique to go with his blazing speed.
In November against Russia that transformation started to turn into production as he put in a good performance on the right wing.
Tuesday night Gatt took another step in that direction. Was it perfect, though? No. The youngster has to take the next step with his final decision and pass to set up his teammates for chances, and there were several examples of this against Canada.
But the promise was certainly on display.
“When you see that the team is just going to sit back and do that you have to just go for and throw yourself at the net and really get that goal because it’s important for us to win these games,” Gatt said. “[Teams] will sit back on us and we really need to work on going forward and get some type of chances and scoring some goals.”
Up next for Gatt is to wait to hear if he will be included in next week’s World Cup qualifier at Honduras, something that is a distinct possibility considering the lack of wing options. According to Klinsmann, the squad will convene in Miami this weekend.
What did you think of Gatt’s performance? Should he be a part of the squad that takes on Honduras?
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