UEFA Champions League: 'Marvelous' Ethan Horvath is unlikely American star on opening day

Five Americans played on the opening day of the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Four were expected to play -- Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Sergino Dest (Barcelona) started and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) and Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) came off the bench -- but the fifth was a surprise.

Indeed, Ethan Horvath had not played a game of any kind for Belgian champion Club Brugge since September 2019 after losing his starting job for a third time.

But veteran Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet was among three Brugge players who tested positive for COVID-19 after their return from international duty and placed in self-isolation. (Brugge CEO Vincent Mannaert also tested positive.)

Brugge faced Russia's Zenit St. Petersburg on the road without three starters --  Ivorian defender Odilon Kossounou, Czech forward Michael Krmencik and Mignolet -- and still won, 2-1.

The only goal Zenit scored came on a Horvath own goal -- Dejan Lovren’s blast from more than 25 years out smashed the post and bounced into the base of the goal off the back of the diving Horvath to tie the score in the 74th minute.

But Horvath then came up with his biggest save of the game to stop Artyom Dzyuba and pushed aside a shot by Brazilian Wendel late in regulation, setting the stage for the stoppage-time winner from 19-year-old Charles De Ketelaere and a 2-1 Brugge win.

Horvath, 25, has a history of excelling in Europe. He was instrumental in Norway's Molde making it out of its 2015 Europa League group that included Ajax, Celtic and Fenerbahce. After two seasons at Molde, where one of his coaches was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Horvath was transferred to Brugge, then coached by legendary Belgian keeper Michel Preud’homme.

Horvath was in and out of the Brugge lineup -- losing the starting job midway through the 2017-18 season and at the start of the 2018-19 season -- before starting the final three games of the 2018 Champions League group stage. He ended up earning the award as the group's top keeper after earning three straight shutouts against Atletico Madrid (0-0), Borussia Dortmund (0-0) and Monaco (4-0), the latter two games on the road.

Against Borussia Dortmund, Horvath faced fellow American Christian Pulisic and made a big reaction save on his friend since they broke into the national team at the same time in 2016.

"We were messaging on bus ride over," he told Soccer America in 2019. "To be a Champions League game at such a high level, it was crazy to play against him. It was an awesome night. I didn't even know it was him until afterwards. After the game, he came to me and said, 'Why did you have to save it?'"

But when the 32-year-old Mignolet became available at the start of the 2019-20 season, Brugge did not hesitate to sign him, sending Horvath yet again back to the bench.

After the game, Brugge coach Philippe Clement praised his young players for not letting the COVID-19 situation affect them and Horvath for his "marvelous" work as a stand-in.

Oct. 20 in St. Petersburg
Zenit 1 Club Brugge 2. Goals: own goal 74; Dennis 63, De Ketelaere 90+4.
Zenit -- Kerzhakov; Karavaev, Lovren, Rakytskyi, Krugovoy; Kuzyaev (Wendel 72), Barrios, Ozdoev (Erokhin 88), Driussi (Mostovoy 72); Azmoun, Dzyuba.
Club Brugge -- Horvath; Mata, Mechele, Ricca; Diatta (Noa Lang 78), Vormer, Rits, Vanaken, Sobol; Dennis (Badji 82), De Ketelaere.
Att.: 4,000.
7 comments about "UEFA Champions League: 'Marvelous' Ethan Horvath is unlikely American star on opening day".
  1. schultz rockne, October 20, 2020 at 9:55 p.m.

    Great job, Ethan! I keep thinking: he has got to find another club. He's on the bench because Brugge want the middling Mignolet. Fine--he's Belgian, has some big-club experience. I suppose it's a great moment for Horvath, however, to once again prove himself. Perhaps he will impress and get that next bigger-league step up that both he (and USMNT) need.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, October 21, 2020 at 9:54 a.m.

    He does need to get a starting gig. Personally, I rate him higher than in Keeper in our pool. 

  3. R2 Dad, October 21, 2020 at 10:59 a.m.

    Too young to be backup--I suspect his agent might be the issue. His contract is up soon, there might be openings at the winter break and the chance for the club to realize something out of a transfer instead of letting him go on a free seems a logical conclusion to his contract. No reason he couldn't find a spot in France or Germany.

  4. Seth Vieux, October 21, 2020 at 5:06 p.m.

    At this point it's inconceiveable to me that Brugge couldn't make a far more valuable profit off a transfer than they can by keeping him behind Mingolet. 

    He's consistently performed very well in important competitions, perfect transfer age at 25, chance to seize the USMNT job if given a starting chance at any 1st division club in Europe or MLS, and if that were to play out any club with a decent following and regualr television appearances would be able to generate some additional revenue from that as well.

    I think Steffen is a suitable keeper for the USMNT, but everything I've seen from both of these keepers tells me Horvath wins that job if given the opportunity.

  5. Wooden Ships replied, October 21, 2020 at 5:48 p.m.

    Not sure how my post got goofy, but I rate him the highest as well. 

  6. Seth Vieux replied, October 21, 2020 at 10:36 p.m.

    I knew what you meant Ships!

  7. humble 1, October 22, 2020 at 12:42 p.m.

    Well done.  Thanks for putting this story in the lights.  Always good when a young players something when given the chance, even better when an American abroad.  Nice touch the clip from the club.  Keep it going Ethan! 

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