HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — When Ethan Horvath came in to replace the starting goalie for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team on Sunday night, he hadn't been expecting to play. Instead, he became a hero in his hometown.
The United States was playing Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Final at Empower Field at Mile High. Horvath took over as goalie in the 69th minute when starting goalie, Zack Steffen, injured his knee. The game went into double overtime, and the U.S. won 3-2 after Horvath saved a penalty kick in the closing minutes of the game.
"I would say he won the game," said Lorne Donaldson. "We can't say anything less."
Donaldson was Horvath's youth soccer coach at Real Colorado. Horvath learned the game of soccer on the grass fields of Heritage Park in Highlands Ranch.
"He started to grow late, but he was a small guy," Donaldson said. "He was a slender guy, but you know he has something in him, his ability."
Horvath started to flourish at ages 15 and 16 while attending Arapahoe High School, Donaldson said. At that time, he was already on youth national soccer teams before he went to Europe to play professionally.
Donaldson said that Horvath's father, Peter, left his job in Colorado to stay with his son in Europe for two years.
"There's thousands and thousands of players who have done this, and it doesn't work out," Donaldson said.
When Horvath entered the game on Sunday, Donaldson said he was confident in his former player.
"I said this is the moment right here. I said this is the moment," Donaldson said. "This is the moment Ethan has been waiting for."
With the championship on the line, Horvath delivered. At the professional level, a penalty kick is rarely saved. It is usually an automatic goal. But Horvath dove to his right and extended his hand to block the ball headed for the corner of the net.
"The way the game was going and in the heat of that moment and the game is going at 150 miles an hour and everything, it was one of the hardest things to do, but, he's always a calm guy," Donaldson said.
After the game, Horvath found his parents in the stands for a heartfelt moment for the hometown hero captured on camera.
"That moment was out of the stratosphere," Donaldson said. "That's something else, you know. I can't imagine the emotion that's going through, what's going on with Ethan and his parents. He made everybody proud."
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