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2017 Player Reviews: Joshua Gatt

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Gatt showed the Rapids tantalizing hints in 2017 of his potential.

John Babiak, @Photog_JohnB

Joshua Gatt

What Abbie Mood and Padraig Smith said when he was acquired in March:

Josh Gatt has played two games with the US Men’s National Team, but hasn’t even made the bench this year for MNUFC due to a bum knee. He has had three knee surgeries, but apparently the third was required due to the second being botched. If he can recover and come back, he would bring experience to the team’s attack. (Padráig) Smith isn’t worried about Gatt’s playing ability, saying “although Josh has had injury issues in the past his talent is without question. He brings pace and an attacking boldness which will provide our coaching staff with another weapon on attack. We’re confident the move to bring both of these young players to our club will help bolster our attack while providing us with additional cap flexibility to continue to improve our roster.”

2017 Counting Stats:

20 GP, 11 GS, 2 G, 3 A, 1067 min, 3 YC

Key Stats:

1.43 Shots per 96

1.2 dribbles per game (lead all Rapids players)

1.01 KP per 96 (M. Hairston, 0.91; Gashi, 2.11; Serna, 1.49; Aigner, 2.01)

per americansocceranalysis.com

Season Highlights:

#1: Game winner against RSL. Was also Rapids goal of the month for October.

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#2: The Goal celebration against RSL, right in front of the traveling Salt Lake fans. So good EA Sports should put it in the next FIFA game.

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#3 I love a good dribble, and this one, from October 7 against FC Dallas, put my jaw on the floor. One of my favorite moments of the year.

It didn’t result in a chance-created or a goal or anything, but Gatt cuts out three Dallas defenders and then strikes a perfect diagonal to Mohammed Saeid. It was a perfect demonstration of what Gatt is best at. The fact that we didn’t see nearly enough of this is also the frustrating thing about Josh Gatt: he had flashes of talent that were stratospheric, but they were oh so rare.

Season Lowlight:

Gatt had five missed shots against LA on June 22. Below is one of them: it’s a tough volley, but still a good representation of a persistent problem for Josh Gatt. He was great at breaking into the box, but not great at finishing.

Season Review:

There are two ways to go about evaluating Joshua Gatt’s season. The first is to peg his performance to the trade that brought him to Colorado and ask if Gatt’s performance (added to Mohammed Saeid’s) equals what the team lost in parting ways with Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. It would be a speculative effort to try and do that for a lot of reasons: the players don’t hardly play the same roles or positions on their team; based on minutes played, Saeid was the main ‘get’ and Gatt was a bonus; Burch went down hurt for Minnesota; and while both teams were different after the trade, both continued to struggle in the Western Conference.

In terms of overall team offense and team defense, the Rapids were a little better after the trade overall than they were before. The team had 5 G (0.71 Gpg), 11 GA (1.57 GApg) in 7 games before trade; and 26 G (0.96 Gpg), 40 GA (1.48 GApg) in 27 games after the trade. They got a little better on offense, and they even got slightly better defensively as well. I’m in no way saying that this is all on the Gatt/Saeid for Burch/Cronin. But for those that might think that the Rapids original sin of 2017 was the trade, the numbers don’t indicate it. In fact, they kind of show that Padráig Smith’s central contention about the trade—that the Rapids needed to get more offensively minded—was at least slightly true. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true enough, and Saeid and Gatt didn’t create enough goal scoring.

The second way to evaluate Gatt’s season is to simply evaluate it from a fairly neutral perspective, without pinning it to either the Rapids overall success or the trade that brought him to Colorado. Josh Gatt blew out his ACL in 2013 and missed all of 2014. In 2015, he re-injured almost the minute he stepped back onto the field, and learned that his earlier surgery had been botched. He would not play again until September of 2016. In January he moved from Molde to Minnesota, and then in April he moved again to Colorado.

It takes time to fully rebound from an ACL tear, let alone two tears and three surgeries. It also takes time to acclimate to MLS from any other league. It is hard to fit into a new team and adjust to a new coach, and Gatt had three different coaches in six months.

With all that, Gatt was mostly healthy in 2017. As you can see from his highlights, he had flashes of glory, tallying 2 goals and 3 assists in just 1,000 minutes. He was good enough that by the end of the Rapids 2017 campaign, he has risen in the pecking order past fellow Rapids wingers Shkelzen Gashi and Dillon Serna.

I think all of that deserves recognition.

As a winger, Gatt’s main job is to carry the ball into the final third or link up with other players to do the same, defend occasonally, and score occasionally. For the Rapids, Gatt was basically an average passer and link-up man, as he created goal-scoring chances at a fairly pedestrian 1.01 KP per game and connected passes at 71.6% rate. This is a little low but perfectly acceptable for a player tasked with creating in the final third. Gatt brought his above-average speed to bear on opposing teams quite effectively, as he preferred to dribble past defenders at any chance. His 24 dribbles (1.2 per game) led all players on the 2017 Rapids. That kind of come-at-you threat was desperately needed for Colorado, especially after the team moved Dominique Badji from playing on the wing in 2016 to being a full-time striker in 2017.

The conventional wisdom of the Rapids fan base was that Gatt wasn’t a good finisher. Anecdotally, I think I agree. He missed some chances that he should have finished, especially early in the year against the Portland Timbers and the Philadelphia Union. (Here’s a link to some misses against the Union.)

The math is inconclusive, though. Gatt had 17 shots on the season, resulting in 2 goals and an expected goals of 1.47, for a G-xG of +0.53. That means he slightly over-performed expectations. With such a small number of chances, however, expected goals is a lot flukier. Most players in the 15-25 shot range have either 1 or 2 goals, and either a + 0.50 or -0.50 G-xG. Gatt wasn’t a bad shooter—Christian Bolanos, who had 29 shots and 0 goals with an xG of 2.97 was a baaaaaaad shooter.* To know whether he’s a good shooter, he’d need to get 2,000 minutes for us to get a better picture.

In the end, I didn’t give him that great a grade because Gatt didn’t contribute much in his first three months with the team, and he was never really able to convert all that pace and ability to blow by defenders into crosses or shots. With all his speed and those moves we see above, imagine my surprise when I looked at the numbers and found that Shkelzen Gashi, Dillon Serna, and Stefan Aigner created far more chances per game than Gatt. It’s great to meg a defender and turn another guy completely, but if you run into a corner or can’t pick out a pass, it’s essentially all for naught.

Getting those aforementioned 2,000 minutes is something I think might happen for Gatt in 2018, but not with Colorado. The team didn’t pick up his contract, and Gatt is, as of this writing, still available. After re-establishing himself as a contributor for a first-division football team last year, I think his career prospects are quite good. Certainly he has the contacts to go back to Norway and start for a team there. At his salary point of $100-200K, he makes a fine bench piece or swing starter for any of the deeper-pocketed teams in MLS, but I sense his ceiling is a bit higher than that if he can find a team that will give him a chance to start. Maybe LAFC, or Nashville in 2019. I imagine he’s rated quite highly by a certain coach in Oklahoma City. I don’t think it’s impossible that he returns with the Rapids, but only after Padráig Smith and the front office team figure out how much money they’d got left to play with.

Wherever he ends up, I think he’s still got a great soccer future laid out before him. I, for one, will certainly be keeping my sights on Joshua Gatt.

Abbie’s 2017 Grade: C

Rabbi’s 2017 Grade: C+

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* Other bad shooters based on 2017 G-xG: Graham Zusi and Gyasi Zardes. Go check out americansocceranalysis.com to see how bad.