KENYA BROWN - Sunday, March 20, 2016
The United States has produced some quality goalkeepers throughout the years and Ethan Horvath hopes his name will be among the greats as he mans the goal at Molde FK.
It's been four years now since the 6-4 netminder joined Norwegian Tippeligaen side Molde FK, and three years since he signed his first professional contract with the team. During that time he was worked his way from being the backup to taking over as the number one due to the departure of Norwegian goalkeeper Orjan Nyland to Ingolstadt in the German Bundesliga last summer.
The 2016 Tippeligaen season will be Horvath's first full season as the starter for Molde and he could not be any more excited to get the league campaign started. He told YA when looking back on first signing with the team he felt a sense of accomplishment and pride when he learned that a legendary Molde player wanted him with the team.
"When I signed with Molde FK, there was a real feeling of excitement and satisfaction knowing that all of my hard work, commitment and sacrifices were starting to pay off," Horvath told YA. "It was surreal to know that Ole Gunnar Solskjær wanted me to be a part of his team and had the confidence in me to sign me."
"When I came to Molde FK, I knew they were having a great deal of success and that the expectations to perform were going to be high," he continued. "Knowing that they used a foreign player spot on the roster to sign me just made me more focused and wanting to work that much harder."
"I am not one to shy away from pressure. I think how you deal with it makes you a better player. It means a great deal to me to now be the number one."
The 20 year-old points out the experienced staff at Molde was a deciding factor which gave him the confidence to take his first steps into the sport as a professional with the organization as a teenager.
"I signed my first contract with Molde FK solely due to the coaching staff at the time," he admits. "Coach Gunnar was the manager then, and with him he had brought Richard Hartis also from Manchester United, who is one of the best keeper coaches in Europe."
"At age 16, it was hard to say no to a coaching duo like that to begin my career with. It was based on the best grounds for future development."
The team had much success in 2014 as they won the league title as well as the Norwegian Cup. However, the 2015 season proved to be a difficult one for them as they finished in sixth place in the standings and were knocked out in the quarterfinal stage of the cup.
According to the Colorado native, despite the failures of not retaining any silverware last season, their run in the Champions League and Europa League was a great distraction.
"It was hard last season knowing so far in advance that we wouldn't be repeating as league champions. The second half of the season, attitudes started turning around because of our unexpected run of play in the Champions League qualifiers and eventual Europa League competition," said Horvath.
"Sometimes you just have to go with what is working and not worry about what isn't. Fortunately, we had the good play of games in Europe to keep us going and end the season on a historic high note."
"The team has undergone many changes since the end of last season. Since we are in pre-season mode, it is hard to tell what the outcome will be."
The Molde players also received a further boost when it was announced in October last year that Solskjær would return to coach the team. In his first stint at Molde he guided them to back-to-back league titles (2011 and 2012) and the Norwegian Cup (2013).
There is no doubt that under the guidance of the former player the team will be favorites this season to lift the league crown, and Horvath believes the return of Solskjær is greatly needed as they look to improve on last season's performance.
"We were already on our run of good form in Europe under Erling [Moe], our then interim head coach, when Coach Gunnar was hired, but it was a definite boost for the team," Horvath expounds. "We needed stability and focus for the future. Everyone here has such great respect for him as a coach and a person."
As the Tippeligaen season has started this month, there are of course a lot of expectations among the teams, and Molde is no different. As for personal goals, the 20-year-old said while the coaching staff has nothing set in stone for him, he personally wants to further improve his abilities in all aspects of the game as he wants to maintain his position as the starter.
"The coaches don't really have any goals for me right now. I am expected to do my job to the best of my abilities and continue to grow and improve. For me right now, I know that focusing on the present is what will help me achieve what I want in the future."
"I think it is important for me to continue to work hard and train at the highest level possible. I want to continue to mature and develop technically, as well as tactically and personally," said Horvath.
"Being a young goal keeper, it is also important for me to play with composure and confidence so that the players, coaches, and scouts see that I am capable and trustworthy," he adds. "I would really like for us to start out the season strong in league play and establish ourselves as a front runner from the beginning."
When talking about opportunities to play for the U.S. national team, Horvath said he would very much like to continue getting call ups for the team. As the coming two years will have the U.S. playing in a variety of competitions (World Cup qualifiers, Copa America Centenario, CONCACAF Gold Cup, etc.) he may just earn that call up from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
"It is always an honor and privilege to play for my country. Getting the opportunity to represent the U.S. in any international competition, especially World Cup qualifiers and eventually a World Cup would be another dream come true," he said.
"It's always there in the back of your head, but in the end it isn't my decision to make. The best thing I can do for my US soccer future is to take care of business in the present, and continue to do my job to the best of my ability at the highest level I have access to. It is always an honor to be mentioned for present and future competitions."