Russia_img_1592 Noah Davis
Direct from Russia

Josh Gatt Is Just Getting Started on the USMNT

The 21-year-old speedster started against Russia, looking both understandably inexperienced and promisingly dangerous. He also has a pretty sweet mustache going.
BY Noah Davis Posted
November 14, 2012
12:00 PM
KRASNODAR, Russia—Sacha Kljestan wasn't the only member of the United States national team sporting a mustache when the team took the field for warmups against Russia at Kuban Stadium on Wednesday night.

Josh Gatt, who started at right midfield and earned his first cap, was sporting a wispy one that he is growing in support of Movember.

"I thought you'd ask about that," the 21-year-old talent said, laughing after the match.

We moved on to discuss more important things. Like his first appearance at a senior team camp.

"It was very hard and I was nervous, but I'm happy how the game went. I'm glad we tied," Gatt said.

Like the rest of the American squad, Gatt started off slowly but worked his way into the fixture as the match progressed. The lightning-quick winger, who helped Molde win the Tippeligaen title, seemed to pick up his game after taking an elbow in the mouth from an opposing defender. Did the blow shock him into the match?

"I wouldn't say shocked, but no one likes to get hit in the face," he said. "After that, I was pretty mad, but it's all part of the game. It's a physical game. Sometimes you take a blow to the face, and you just move on with it."

Move on he did. Soon after, Gatt and Herculez Gomez switched flanks, and he was effective on the left. He wasn't perfect—far from it, as he seemed overwhelmed by the pace of the game at times—but it was a solid, if not spectacular debut. In the 63rd minute, a rejuvenated Juan Agudelo replaced the former Michigan Wolves player.

To hear Jurgen Klinsmann tell it, getting "youngsters" like Gatt and Agudelo into a difficult match was an essential part of the plan. They will need these players going forward.

"I think it was important to us to introduce some younger players to the senior level and I think they all can be great," the coach said. "There's nothing to lose for them coming into a game like that. They can only win. Obviously, Josh Gatt won his first cap for the United States. So, you're pleased for them. You're happy for them. For us, it's important that we have these youngsters grow step by step."

Playing for the national team is a process. Frequently, the first outing doesn't go as well as a player hopes. Ask a guy like Brek Shea, who looked completely lost when he won his first cap against Colombia in 2010. But Shea soon acclimated and became an important contributor. No, Gatt did not have his best night. But it was the biggest game of his young career against one of the best teams in the world. A few mistakes are understandable.

And Gatt, like Klinsmann and many others, believes he can bring another dimension to an American squad that too often plays through the middle.

"I'm a fast player when I'm in form and I'm healthy," Gatt said. "I think that [the team] isn't used to going wide. I stayed out wide [against Russia] and I don't think I received the ball as much as I could have, but that's just something the team has to develop. When you get someone new on the team, it takes awhile to get used to. That's something that they will take care of. The team will be able to figure it out. I'm not worried."

"Hopefully, this is just the start of a very long national team career."

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