While the fastest players on the Gig Harbor High School soccer team spend their time flying down the flanks and stretching the defense, center forward Dylan Horwath has made his living in the middle of the field this season.
It’s a position that isn’t for everyone. It requires, more than anything, physicality. Players in that role need to be scrappy, strong and willing to take on defenders. Horwath, who has four goals this season for Gig Harbor, fits that bill perfectly for the Tides and coach Joe Ross.
“He’s a very strong player on the ball — physically strong,” Ross said. “And then he’s deceivingly quick. He’s that target forward that we can get the ball played to, and then he can use that burst of speed he has to push through with his physical strength to get in behind those defenders.”
There are some differences with his role, but as far as disposition, Horwath thinks the comparison to Chase Tovey, who was a key factor in Gig Harbor’s run through the state tournament last season, is a fair one.
“We’re both very physical, so I definitely see myself as the same type of player as him,” Horwath said. “I try to bring energy. I try to spread it throughout our whole team, making sure we’re all the first ones to the ball.”
With Gig Harbor’s team speed, especially with forward Max Frank, Horwath’s role at the top is fairly clear: Win the ball, hold the ball, distribute, and then when the ball comes back, be ready to finish.
“In this formation with a single forward, their primary responsibility is to get the ball at their feet and hold it,” Ross said. “He helps build the attack.”
The diversity Gig Harbor has in its attack is a big reason the Tides are undefeated this season, with a 7-0-1 record in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. In Gig Harbor’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Horwath is playing a critical role.
“I need the speed on the outside, and then having that strong forward,” Ross said. “It’s very critical. Each one plays off the other. They’re all reactive to each other. Teams will look at us and say, ‘Wow, they’re really fast.’ When they go outside to try to compensate, I can go back into the middle to a strong target player like Dylan. Now they’ve got to compact, which opens up the outside.”
Horwath knows that once he gets the ball at his feet in the attacking third, good things happen for the Tides. So he’s constantly looking to position himself accordingly.
“I just try to be there for every pass,” he said. “I try to be open as much as I can. We always find the ball in the middle a lot. I try to be there when it really counts.”
Gig Harbor has six league games remaining, and figures to be the favorite in all of them. Could the Tides post an undefeated regular season?
“It just comes down to teamwork, cooperation,” Horwath said. “We have big players, speed. It’s just how we work together. We just play really well together. I’m just excited to see how this season turns out.”