Americans in Tippeligaen: Meet Alex Horwath, goalkeeper for Brann
Norwegian American Weekly
After several years of playing professionally in the U.S. and one year in Sweden, Alex Horwath signed with Norwegian team Brann in 2015. In the following interview, the 28-year-old goalkeeper from Maryland shares his thoughts on his experiences as an American soccer player in Norway.
Molly Jones: Can you tell me a bit about your background in soccer? What led you to playing for SK Brann in Norway?
Alex Horwath: Soccer was always my priority. After club soccer and high school, I spent one year at the University of Connecticut but had a serious injury, so I transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I spent three and a half years. After I graduated from UW, I was signed as an MLS Pool Goalkeeper, which is a goalkeeper owned by the league, not a specific team, and I was sent out to different teams throughout the year when one of their goalkeepers was injured. So I spent time in San Jose, Seattle, Kansas, New York, and Columbus.
The next year I was signed to New York Red Bulls. I only made one first team appearance there, so I decided as a young goalkeeper I needed to play games and left the Red Bulls to go down to the second division where I played for the Wilmington Hammerheads and VSI Tampa Bay.
After two years in the second division and over sixty games under my belt, I decided I wanted to give Europe a try. I had a teammate from UW playing in Sweden who said his team was looking for a goalie, so I packed my bags and went on trial with Ljungskile SK in the Swedish Superettan. I was signed to a one-year contract and had a very good year. I went on to win Goalkeeper of the Year in the Superettan. After my success at LSK, I attracted some attention from some bigger clubs in Scandinavia, like Brann. The coach here called me and said they wanted me, and that’s how I ended up at Brann.
MJ: How is playing soccer in Norway different than in the U.S.?
AH: I don’t think there is a huge difference between soccer in Norway and the U.S. Five to ten years ago when I started professionally, it was everyone’s dream to play in Europe because the level was seen as so much higher, but the game has progressed so quickly in the U.S. Now I think the MLS is probably a higher level than Tippeligaen. The biggest difference that I notice is that the U.S. is a lot more advanced when it comes to strength and agility.
MJ: How did playing for Ljungskile in Sweden compare with playing in Norway?
AH: Overall I think Swedes and Norwegians are very similar. The club I played for was a very small club. I think only about 5,000 people live in Ljungskile and maybe 50,000 in the neighboring city, so it’s very different playing for a club like that than for Brann. Off the field life is pretty much the same, but there is a lot more passion and attention around the club in Bergen. There is a lot more pressure from the fans and media to perform in Brann, especially since I came at a time when the club had just been relegated.
MJ: At the end of the 2015 season, Brann was promoted back up to Tippeligaen. How did this feel? What are you most looking forward to about the 2016 Tippeligaen season?
AH: It was more of a relief than anything else. The expectation was that we would go straight back up. There was a lot of pressure from the fans, the club, and the media. Brann is too big of a club to operate in the OBOS-ligaen, and it is an important club for Norwegian football. So it was important that we were able to be directly promoted.
We have a unique situation at Brann with the goalkeepers. We have two goalkeepers that would start on most Tippeligaen teams, so I’m hoping to get a good handful of games this year and perform well to help the team stay up and contend.
MJ: What to do you enjoy about living in Norway? How does it compare with your expectations of the country?
AH: I really hadn’t heard much about the Scandinavian way of life before I moved to Sweden. The only thing I really heard about Norway when I lived in Sweden is how expensive it is, and it definitely lived up to that expectation. But Bergen is a very nice city, especially when we get good weather. It’s very outdoor-oriented, so it’s really nice to be able to hike the mountains on a nice day with my fiancée and our dog. That’s probably what I enjoy the most about it.
MJ: What are your goals for the future of your career?
AH: My immediate goals are to get as many games as possible this year for Brann and perform well. In the future, I’m open. My fiancée is Swedish, so we are open to staying in Scandinavia but wouldn’t mind getting back to the MLS for a couple years to finish out my career either.
This article originally appeared in the March 25, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.