Alex Horwath knew the timing could be difficult. His wife was due to give birth to their son a couple of weeks into the MLS preseason, and Horwath was set to make his move back to the league after a six-year hiatus.
“The club’s been incredibly supportive and open to me staying,” said Horwath, Real Salt Lake’s newest goalkeeper, “and just saying, ‘Let us know when you’re ready.’ … Right off the bat, that was one of the biggest and nicest things that could happen in your transition to a new club. So it just speaks volumes to the character of everybody involved here.”
Real Salt Lake announced Horwath’s signing Monday after the 30-year-old goalkeeper joined RSL in training Sunday in Herriman. The Salt Lake Tribune reported his signing two weeks ago, but Horwath remained in Sweden with his wife, Frida, and newborn son, Vincent, while RSL traveled to Tucson for the second leg of preseason. He will be added to the RSL roster pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate.
“It was really tough to leave, but it was a great week in Sweden,” Horwath told The Tribune. “Then they’ll come over hopefully in a month or so and we’ll reunite. But what an experience though. Really exciting times.”
Horwath has spent the past four years in Scandinavia, first playing a season in Sweden for Ljungskile SK, where he kept 14 clean sheets in 30 starts. He then transferred to Norwegian club SK Brann, which won promotion to Norway’s first tier in his first year on the team.
The Maryland native began his professional career in the United States. Horwath signed with MLS as a pool goalkeeper straight out of college. He had stints with San Jose and Seattle in that role but did not make an appearance for either team. The New York Red Bulls signed him the next year, and he played one match for them. He left MLS for the USL and got 45 league matches under his belt over the next two seasons before going abroad.
Horwath returns to MLS under two of the same coaches he had with the New York Red Bulls in 2011. Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke was a Red Bulls assistant coach at the time, and current RSL goalkeepers coach Todd Hoffard was hired by the Red Bulls midway through the season.
“We got along then,” Horwath said about Hoffard, “and I liked the way he trains keepers and the way he sees the game. So I’m excited to get back and get in his rhythm and try to develop even more. … [At] 30 years old, you’re still developing and trying to get better. And then Mike is a players’ coach, so he’s a guy you can talk to and feel comfortable with, so it’s definitely a nice change from where I was.”
Horwath trained in Herriman on Friday and Saturday, Hoffard said, before joining the team in Sunday’s session. Horwath also is returning from a right wrist injury that he underwent surgery for in September. Hoffard said the team plans to ease Horwath in as he gets back into shape, fights jet lag and adjusts to the altitude and MLS.
“He’s come a long way,” Hoffard said about Horwath’s development since 2011. “He’s really matured and grown as a player.”