Well before sunrise a decade ago, Peter Horvath found himself in the back of a grocery store trying to gain a foothold on the complexities of Norway’s waste system of all things.
As a new resident of the west coast fjord town of Molde in August 2012, he learned the intricacies of what needed to be composted, broken down for recycling or thrown in the trash. Norwegians are conscious of their trash, sometimes meticulous. It was his first shift at his new job as a janitor.
“Let’s just say reality kicked in very quickly,” he said.
Horvath was a physical education teacher at Columbine High School before moving to Norway for a two-year sabbatical. His wife Deana soon joined the same cleaning company, Møre Drift. They turned their lives completely upside down to give their son Ethan, an exceptionally talented goalkeeper, the chance to achieve his dream of playing football at a high level. When he joined Molde FK in April 2012 to train with the first team, he was still 16 years old.
With the family’s home and car at Highlands Ranch already sold and most of their belongings in long-term storage, there was no turning back.
“‘What the hell are we doing?’ was probably said more often,” joked Peter Horvath, looking back on the first few weeks in Norway.
Ten years later, the decision to go abroad has more than paid off.
Not only is Ethan the world-class goalkeeper he always wanted to be, with a starting role for a pro club in England, but he’s now a historic figure in Colorado football. That fact was cemented on November 9 when Horvath became the first Coloradan to be included in a USA men’s national team roster at the FIFA World Cup. He will be in uniform when the USMNT begins Monday’s World Cup match against Wales in Qatar.
And with that comes a flood of emotions.
For the Horvath family, football has always been a central part of their lives.
Once a forward for the Denver Avalanche of the Major Indoor Soccer League, Peter has converted his pro career into teaching and coaching. He directed Columbine’s college programs for both boys and girls for 26 seasons, accumulating three state titles and over 500 wins in a career that ended with his induction into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Of course, Ethan grew up around the sport. He started playing when he was four and decided to become a goalkeeper when he was nine. He assumed it to be the last line of defense and individual training of the required position.
Anthony Latronica was Horvath’s goalkeeping coach from 2007 to 2010 while he was also an assistant at the Air Force Academy and again with the USA men’s U18 national team in January 2012. A Columbine grad playing for Peter in the 1990s, he first met Ethan as he built an All-American resume in college.
When Latronica finished coaching Horvath, he informed the family of a new reality: their son could go pro.
“To be honest, he wanted to be a goalkeeper from day one. … (what stood out) was the psychological component first,” said Latronica, now general manager at Tampa Bay United SC of USL League Two. “He was so serious and committed to training that you have to have that mentality to be able to do it.”
Horvath’s physical attributes also helped. He was tall, lanky, and athletic. He had a large wingspan even then. (He is now 6-foot-4).
“It was a projection, but I knew with his mentality that he was going to make it,” Latronica said.
Horvath reached milestone after milestone. In the summer of 2011, Ethan had just turned 16 when Molde, the four-time Norwegian champion, spotted him at a two-week tournament in Europe. He then played two seasons at Arapahoe High School, including a memorable junior season in which he kept 10 shutouts and gave up just 11 goals.
In January 2012 he stayed in England with his mother who homeschooled him. He trained with Manchester City and Stoke City – but nothing came of those attempts.
Molde inquired again in April and proposed a life-changing scenario. To qualify for residency, Peter and Deana would have to move there, and Ethan could apply for a family visa. The association facilitated the development with an apartment and jobs. The cleaning company had the order for the stadium and the training facility.
Ethan returned to the US one last time to renew his passport while his visa application was being processed and even spent 10 weeks at 17 as a volunteer assistant coach for the Syracuse University women’s soccer team via coaching connections. Horvath was finally in Norway in October.
In the summer of 2013 he turned 18 and signed a professional contract. Meanwhile, his parents got up early and went to the 11,000-seat Aker Stadium, where they prepared the facilities for daily use. Mopping floors, cleaning toilets, or tidying up the dressing room after Ethan’s teammates were tedious, jobs they held until next spring.
Whenever he saw his parents working, he was reminded of their sacrifices.
“During training, I could always see them and wave at them. From there, the big picture took over,” he told US Soccer on his emotional episode of 26 Stories. “… They put their lives on hold for more than two years just to see if that dream would come true.”
Fast forward 10 years and the move is still having an impact today.
Horvath, now 27, has achieved great success for both club and country. At the World Cup, he is one of the older players in the 26-strong squad. The Americans are the second youngest team in the tournament. Many of the team’s most iconic names only broke into the national team image after failing to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Not Horvath. He was as steadfast as it gets.
After joining Belgium’s Club Brugge in 2017, he started in the UEFA Champions League and then kept a clean sheet at Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in front of a crowd of 66,000. Wearing the Stars and Stripes, he came on as a second-half substitute for an injury and ended up “saving his life” in the Nations League final at Empower Field against Mexico in June 2021, earning a potential game-changing penalty in the Interruption denied time.
Joining Nottingham Forest last season remained No2 for much of the season. He delivered when it mattered most, coming on as a late-game substitute in the team’s play-off final and helping out Forest, for the first time since To seal promotion to the Premier League in 1999.
As a result, Horvath has earned a reputation for being dependable no matter where he is on the depth chart – a stellar USMNT trainer, Gregg Berhalter, pointed this out when he was included on the World Cup roster. Fictional trainer Ted Lasso even referenced in a motivational “handwritten” note currently displayed on a South Broadway billboard in Denver, “One thing I absolutely know,” the billboard reads, “No one is going to climb Mt. Horvath.” cross.”
That season, on loan to Luton Town in the English league, second tier, he became an overnight hit with Hatters fans. who delight in singing “USA, USA”. after strong performances. With eight shutouts to date, it’s easy to see why.
Luton goalkeeping coach Kevin Dearden believes Horvath will deliver if challenged in Qatar.
“Ethan has a fantastic attitude and is uniquely focused,” said Dearden. “But I think what strikes me the most is his character, his calmness. Nothing can faze him and that authority carries over to the back four and the entire team.”
Peter and Deana often reflect on their time in Norway.
Ever since her son’s career took off, a word has been spoken regularly. It comes true again when they see him join Ethan’s wife Maja on the biggest stage in the world in Qatar.
“It’s still all a bit surreal,” said Peter. “Ethan’s career has put us in many positions and we’ve had tons of use of that word. We said that in Dortmund (when he played in the UEFA Champions League) when we were standing outside Wembley Stadium (for Forest’s play-off final). It’s just really surreal.”