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Griffin O’Neill writes a comprehensive scout report about Ethan Horvath, Molde’s No-Nonsense Keeper.
With current incumbents, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan both on the wrong side of 32, the door is open for a new keeper for the United States Men’s National Team. The candidate best suited to take the starting role is 21-year-old Molde keeper Ethan Horvath. Horvath has become a staple at Norwegian powerhouse Molde, while impressive performances on the European stage mean that his talents have been showcased to all of Europe.
Born in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on June 9, 1994, Horvath started out at local club team Real Colorado until 2013, when he was picked up by Norwegian team Molde FK’s reserves. After impressing in various reserve teams, Horvath was given his first team debut in a Cup match against Surnadal IL during the 2013/14 season. In this match, he kept a clean sheet en route to a 9-0 win. Horvath only featured one more time that season (clean sheet), but in the 2014/15 season, an injury to first team keeper Orjan Nyland mean that Horvath was thrust into the first team. He appeared 19 times for Molde in all competitions keeping eight clean sheets and impressing in the process. His real break came when Nyland was sold to German club Ingolstadt before the start of the 2015/16 season. In that season Horvath made 35 total appearances in the league, Europa League, and Champions League qualification. While a sixth place finish means that Horvath will not be able to showcase his abilities in Europe for another season, he should still be able to continue his development without interruption.
Horvath’s shining moment was in a Europa League group stage game against Ajax where he single-handedly salvaged a draw which propelled Molde into the top spot in the group. With the Tippeligaen season starting back in March, Horvath has a chance to cement himself as the starting keeper and begin to draw the attention of some of the big clubs in Europe.
Horvath made his USMNT debut in October in a friendly against Cuba. In this game, Horvath impressed greatly. His composure with the ball at his feet and his calmness in the face of inclement field conditions and a shaky back line were extremely impressive for a player of his age. The biggest thing working in Horvath’s favor is that the two keepers above him in the US depth chart are over ten years older than him. With Brad Guzan not getting regular playing time at Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough and Tim Howard entering the twilight of his career at the Colorado Rapids, Horvath has a chance to become the starter in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The only thing hindering Horvath’s international development is the recent appointment of Bruce Arena as the head coach. Arena is a manager who values experience over youthful exuberance, so the (relatively) older heads of Bill Hamid and Brad Guzan appear to have the slight edge over Horvath.
Horvath is a no-nonsense keeper. This meaning that he isn’t a sweeper keeper like Manuel Neuer or more of a passing option than a keeper like Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. He keeps it simple and does what is asked of him. He is also a strong figure at the back who is able to organize his back line very well. He uses communication very well and is able to get his point across to his defenders swiftly and effectively. He also likes to rush off of his line very quickly. This can either be fantastic or disastrous. The bad side of this was shown in his maiden game for the US against Cuba. He rushed off of his line to close down a winger without checking behind him to look for runners. He was subsequently lobbed, but recovered well and made himself big enough so that Cuban striker Alberto Gomez struck his header off of the post.
At 6’4, Horvath is an imposing figure in the net. This lanky frame also helps him when claiming crosses and free kicks. This command of the 18-yard box is a very important thing in a time when keepers are scrutinized for their every move. Horvath’s size also means that he is less likely to be pushed off the ball when challenging a striker for a high ball. This strength also extended to his wrists, where he is able to stop even the most powerful shots with only one hand.
While his height does keep him from being as mobile as smaller keepers, Horvath makes up for his lack of agility with an uncanny ability to read shots no matter the amount of spin or swerve on them. This is just a small part of the shot stopping skill that Horvath possesses. Another key element that Horvath has is reflexes. His reflexes are the most impressive part of his game. These were shown in the Europa League group stage game against Ajax where he made two incredible reflex saves from close range. This game elevated Horvath into the picture of the best young keepers in the world.
As mentioned before, Horvath is a straightforward keeper. This means that the finer points of his game are less refined than they should be. A measly 58% pass completion percentage in the league last year doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his playmaking abilities from the back. This poses a serious problem for his development because of modern managers wanting their keepers to be just as good at passing out of the back as they are at saving shots.
Another place where Horvath tends to struggle is in his decisions on when to come out. He doesn’t always take into account what is going on around him when he rushes out to meet an attacker. While he is good at making himself big when rushing out, he can’t always rely on his size to save him. Horvath is in a very good situation, though. He is the starter at a club regularly competing in Europe, and he in the pole position to become the starter for the United States.
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