For two seasons, forward Matt Horth was one of the faces of the Atlanta Silverbacks, scoring the club's first ever NASL goal, leading the team in scoring and building up a deserved reputation as one of the true nice guys around the league. Horth has since moved on from the Silverbacks, signing with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, but in an in-depth interview conducted this week, the 6-foot-3 forward from Akron, Ohio insists he’ll never forget his time in Atlanta. Here is Part I:
Well, Matt, your hard work in Atlanta paid off and earned you a contract in the top flight of American soccer. How has your time with the Revolution been so far?
“It’s been fun so far, and most importantly, it’s been really good for my development as a player. Training week in and week out with top-level guys has just been amazing for me. I’m starting to learn the nuances of the game at the MLS level, and I think it’s important for me to get all of that out of the way during preseason. Overall, it’s been really great, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my new teammates.”
Did you already know anyone on the team going into preseason?
“Nope. I didn’t really know any of them, except for a few guys that I saw on TV, I guess. It was kind of a challenge trying to learn everyone’s names the first few days, but once you get immersed in the environment, you pick up on it pretty quick.”
On the field, what is the difference between the NASL and MLS?
“I’ll be honest, after seeing both levels, I will say MLS is definitely a step up. That being said, I really think a lot of NASL players could not only play in MLS, but play really well in MLS. The main thing I’ve noticed in MLS is the pace. Everything is done a lot faster and it’s done with less touches. The spaces are smaller and you have to be able to make decisions quicker. There just isn’t as much room for error.
The NASL was absolutely huge for my development, though. I’m very thankful for the two years I spent in Atlanta, getting games every week and playing in a professional environment. I was very fortunate to play with and against a lot of quality players in NASL, and I think that helped prepare me a lot.”
As a player in MLS, what have been some of your favorite perks of the job?
“The big thing I’ve noticed is the amount of emphasis the teams put on player recovery. After training, I walk back into the training facility and you have all of this catered food – healthy stuff, of course. You open up the fridge and there is just about every Gatorade product you could ever imagine – protein shakes too. There are cold tubs, hot tubs, gyms, trainers and massage therapists available at all times. They just put a lot of resources into their players, which is pretty awesome.”
Let’s shift gears back to the Silverbacks now. What do you think you’ll miss most about the Silverbacks?
“The club as a whole. It’s interesting to look at other pro teams and then look at Atlanta. I look at the Silverbacks as more of a family than a club. I’m not trying to be overly nostalgic here, but you look at the relationships the players have with the fans and the front office. I got to know a lot of them – you care about them and they legitimately care about you. From top to bottom – the players, coaches, staff, and fans – everybody has bought in. I think the authenticity of the Silverbacks organization is what I’ll miss the most.
Are there any places or neighborhoods in Atlanta that you’re going to miss?
“Well, there is only one Chick-fil-A up here, and it’s the mall food court version, so I’ll be missing that for sure! I’ll definitely miss Buckhead – that neighborhood has so many great places. Overall, I’ll miss the southern charm and warm weather too.”
Given the fact that you played with the majority of players returning for another season with the Silverbacks, what are your expectations for the team in 2013?
“I think they’re going to blow it up. With the way we finished last year and the pieces that are returning, I really think it’s going to be a good year. The guys know what is expected and they know what it takes to win in the league. I think they have a great shot at winning it this year. It’s almost bittersweet because I still feel like I’m part of it, even though I’ve moved on. I’ll be watching them!”
If you could offer a collective message to Silverbacks fans, what would that message be?
“The only thing I could really say is a deeply authentic and ultra appreciate ‘Thanks.’ They have been there for the team through the thick and thin, and always hung in there and supported our team and me personally. As a player, the love, the support, and the genuine care you feel from the Silverbacks fans is massive. They’re a quality class of people. Thank you, Silverbacks fans!”