If you hadn’t heard of Alex Ivanov before this season, his two outstanding Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup performances firmly established himself as a star and fan-favorite of AFC Cleveland. By announcing his presence with 16 saves against USL’s FC Cincinnati, Ivanov earned both NOOMA Man of the Match and the hearts of Royals fans tuning in from home.
Ivanov’s moments in the spotlight were especially sweet as they were his first two matches after returning from the biggest setback of his career. The Royals goalkeeper had been a regular in the Royals roster since 2013, but was sidelined in 2016 with a compound tibia-fibula fracture suffered while playing in January 2016. A 10-month recovery kept Ivanov out of action for the entire 2016 season, but he remained with the team serving as an assistant goalkeeper coach.
Ivanov, a Strongsville native and former starting goalkeeper at Ohio State University, loves representing Cleveland and rejoining his teammates each season.
“I’ve been practicing and playing with AFC Cleveland since 2013, and I have always enjoyed that fact that it is my hometown club. It’s so exciting not only to play high-level soccer here in Cleveland, but also to play with a group of great players, many of which I’ve been playing with and against for a long time.
As a Buckeye, Ivanov was a full-time starter in his fourth and fifth years. During those seasons, he was named Second Team All-Big Ten his Junior year and was team captain his senior year, when he won the NCAA Division I Lowe’s Senior Class Award. Ohio State would finish second in the Big Ten during Ivanov’s senior year behind Maryland. He would end his collegiate career at OSU with 15 shut outs (5th all time) and 239 saves (3rd all time).
Receiving a walk-on offer from OSU is still one of Ivanov’s best soccer memories, along with his first game as a Royal in 2013 against Detroit City FC. Ivanov’s five-year career with AFC Cleveland has also been highlighted by a playoff run to the NPSL regional finals in 2015 and being named NPSL National Player of the Week in 2015 after a shutout win against Indiana Fire.
Ivanov has since made the most of his first few post-injury opportunities. Perhaps the greatest moments of Ivanov’s career came during the 2017 Open Cup when the Royals goalkeeper made seven saves in a 3-1 win against Des Moines Menace, followed by an inspiring 16-save, NOOMA Man of the Match performance against FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League.
“I would also say that competing at Nippert Stadium and holding our own against a full professional team, and contributing to keep my team in the game was very, very cool,” said Ivanov.
Outside of the Royals, Ivanov is a huge fan of Liverpool FC — and has been since their come-from-behind Champions League title in 2005. He also looks up to former teammate and Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson.
“I always try to emulate his play — specifically his control of his area, shot stopping ability, distribution with hands and feet, and overall presence,” said Ivanov.
As many goalkeepers of this generation do, Ivanov also idolizes legends like Iker Casillas, Gigi Buffon, and Tim Howard, whose highlight reels he frequently watched on YouTube.
In addition to flashing his hands during his summers with the Royals, Ivanov is also quite the handyman off the pitch.
“I work full time as an Electrical Engineer here in Cleveland. I am a gear head and LOVE working on cars and motorcycles – anything with an internal combustion engine,” said Ivanov.
You can catch Ivanov at any of the remaining AFC Cleveland home matches, including this Friday’s (June 9) contest with FC Buffalo, by purchasing tickets at afccleveland.com/tickets.
Photo Credit: FC Cincinnati