By Mac Gostow ’13
“I have never seen anyone work as hard as Matt. He arrived at practice early and left late every single day. He was extremely dedicated to the game.”
It started out like most great sports stories do: a ball and a dream. For Matt Horth ’11 the journey to Major League Soccer has been a series of small steps, serious sacrifices and unwavering determination. It was as a member of the Gordon Men’s Soccer team that the recently drafted New England Revolution forward cultivated the skills necessary to bring his fantasy career to fruition, and gained the crucial life lessons that prepared him for the long journey to professional soccer.
During his time at Gordon, Matt dominated the field with a total of 37 goals and 20 assists over his four years. He was voted Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Rookie of the Year in 2007 and he made CCC First Team All-Conference each of his four years. But for the Gordon team, Matt was more than just an impressive scorer; he was a leader. Jake DeClute, Gordon Men’s Soccer’s head coach through 2011, chose Matt as team captain his sophomore year, and Horth held the position for the next three years. “As much as the team benefited from him, he benefited from them. I think he helped them to compete more, while they helped him to have a better perspective on soccer. Plus, they pushed him,” says DeClute, who also coached Horth’s high school club soccer team and recruited Matt for Gordon Men’s Soccer.
Matt blossomed as team leader, encouraging greatness from his teammates on and off the field; he became a role model for both character and conditioning. He took seriously the team’s theme verse from Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” “We stressed brotherhood. This meant pushing one another hard on the field but also supporting one another off the field,” he says. And on the field Matt led by example. Former teammate Ryan Coil recalls, “I have never seen anyone work as hard as Matt. He arrived at practice early and left late every single day. He was extremely dedicated to the game.”
When fall of his senior year came round, Horth and DeClute eagerly contacted a handful of second- and third-tier professional soccer clubs and arranged tryouts. Matt performed well but didn’t receive any call-backs until his final tryout with the Atlanta Silverbacks. He showed his true potential on the field in Georgia, and as soon as he came off the practice field, the team signed him to a two-year deal.
During his time in Atlanta, Matt honed his skills, proving himself a formidable goal-scorer. He racked up 18 goals in 49 appearances and learned how to condition for a long season. Horth continued to push himself mentally and physically, training five days a week to build his stamina and durability.
His performance on the field caught the eye of New England Revolution General Manager Michael Burns, who invited Matt to Boston for five days last October. After several weeks of dialog between his agent and the Revolution scout, Horth was signed to the team just after Thanksgiving. “It was so much more than just signing a contract,” he says. “It was 16 years of hard work paying off. It was the culmination of a journey; the sacrifice had turned into dividends.”
As he continues to grow as a player, Matt never forgets those who helped him get there. Matt maintains a close relationship with Jake DeClute to this day. DeClute shares, “As good as it was to coach Matty, it has been even better to get to know him as a person.”
Horth credits his faith with helping him through the hardest times along the way. Now, with his efforts beginning to pay off, he reflects, “God humbled me to use soccer not for personal gain or popularity, but as a gift that I must respond to by glorifying Him. He has given me a platform, and I must decide how I will
As his accomplishments settle in, Horth stresses the importance of taking things day-by-day and not looking too far into the future. “This entire journey has been a series of stepping stones across a river. It is just one stone at a time. It was this last jump, the one to the other shore, that was the most difficult.”
Mac Gostow is a communication arts major, co-founder of ScotRadio, and performer with the Sweaty-Toothed Madmen improv troupe. He has interned with CBS News and been a radio host in Istanbul, Turkey.