13013_gattjosh_isi_usmnt130129008 Thomas B. Shea/isiphotos.com
From Norway with love

A Slow Start to the Season for Josh Gatt and Molde

The speedy American winger and his two-time defending Tippeligaen champion are off to a poor start. Matt Wagner examines the early struggles and how it might affect Gatt's spot with the United States.
BY Matt Wagner Posted
May 02, 2013
1:00 PM
Josh Gatt became an internet sensation in 2011 after scoring a goal against Start, and United States fans instantly installed him as the answer to the attacking width problem. While he put together two very good seasons under a well-respected coach, the American winger’s club struggles in 2013 might put a damper on his national team standing. Through six matches, the Plymouth, Mich., native has yet to score or set up a goal in league action, and his blazing speed hasn’t benefited him as much as in seasons prior. His player ratings have plummeted from last season. Local site vglive.no ranks the 21-year-old American 80th in the league with a rating of 4.67, far below the 5.28 he earned in 2012, which was good enough for 13th (right behind American goalkeeper Steve Clark).

The American winger’s frustration at his struggles came out somewhat during Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Strømsgodset at home. He let both the head referee and the assistant know that he disagreed with a couple of calls—including a goal disallowed for offside that would have tied the match—by running toward them and getting in their faces.

Although Gatt has struggled mightily to start the Norwegian season, he hasn’t been the only one on his team to do so. In fact, it’s hard to find a single bright spot on the team.

Molde clinched the worst start by a defending champion with four consecutive losses to open up the season, and although the team recorded its first point in a 1-1 tie to Odd Grenland on April 20, the club still hasn’t picked up a win. After recording 1.93 points per match in 2011 and 2.06 points per match in 2012, Molde is averaging 0.16 points through six matches.

In the history of top flight soccer in Norway, twice has the defending champion been relegated—Brann Bergen in 1964 and Lyn in 1969. Brann, which was the defending back-to-back Norwegian champion like Molde is this year, picked up one point in its first four matches, and Lyn started the first six matches with a 2-2-2 record.

With a start like this, the dreaded “R-word” has replaced any talk of a third-straight championship. “We could be relegated, but I do not think anything of it,” Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær said to Norwegian media following his team’s loss to Strømsgodset. “We are located at the bottom of the table and are no longer a candidate for the championship this year.”

Why the sudden change? Molde lost two of its key contributors from the previous season: leading scorer Davy Claude Angan to Hangzhou Greentown in China and defensive stalwart Vegard Forren to Southampton in the Premier League. The team has yet to find the answer for these holes. It's unable to create goals when it needs them and lacks consistency on the back line. Molde has scored just five goals so far, and not a single player has more than one. Meanwhile, Solskjær has employed seven different center-back pairings due to injuries and suspensions. Add in first-choice goalkeeper Espen Bugge Pettersen’s absence with a thigh injury and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

“We have to look ourselves in the mirror,” midfielder Daniel Berg Hestad said to rbnett.no following Sunday’s loss. “The table does not lie. We are where we are, and we get what we deserve. We have to fight even harder now and show that we are still hungry (to win something).”

Whether Gatt’s and Molde’s struggles will hurt Gatt’s chances at making appearances for the United States men’s national team this summer is yet to be determined, but based on this start, Jurgen Klinsmann might need to search elsewhere for that elusive attacking width.

Mathew Wagner is ASN's Europe correspondent.

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