The deal came together quickly, not unlike the pair of assists Zach Klindworth dished out hours earlier in the final game of an all-star trip to Iceland.
Klindworth, an alum of The Master’s University men’s soccer team, was in Iceland with a program called SoccerViza in February, playing against professional teams in hopes of earning a contract.
It was the final evening of the weeklong trip, and Klindworth played maybe his best soccer, tallying two assists in a five-minute span.
As he undressed in the locker room, someone grabbed his attention. The opposing team, a fourth division club in Iceland, liked his game and wanted to sign him.
Klindworth shuffled to the lobby, where six men were waiting to give him a tour of the team’s clean, professional facilities. The opportunity was enticing. The interest was mutual. But Klindworth needed time to think (not much time, as it turned out).
Back at his hotel, he discussed the deal with a SoccerViza official and a pair of scouts. Klindworth didn’t need convincing. He verbally agreed, setting in motion a months-long stay on the Nordic island nation.
Since April, Klindworth has worked and trained 4,000 miles from Santa Clarita, the only city he’d ever known. And while he doesn’t know what the future holds in terms of soccer, he believes the future does hold soccer.
“I think that’s something the Lord put on my heart for my whole entire life,” Klindworth says, “and I’ve been blessed with the ability to do it. So I think it would be amazing to continue to pursue this game at the professional level.”
* * * * *
For as long as he can remember, Klindworth has been surrounded by two things.
For one, he was born, raised and educated in Santa Clarita, graduating from Valencia High and driving across town to Master’s.
The other constant has been soccer, which he picked up when he was 4 and excelled at in high school and college.
The opportunity to continue playing while also expanding his horizons came this winter when he signed a contract with UMFA Alftanes, a club in the coastal city of Alftanes, Iceland.
“To have an opportunity to enjoy another culture, another lifestyle,” Klindworth said, “has been really, really enjoyable.”
Klindworth lives with one of the club’s board members. It’s most always cloudy with a high chance of rain or hail. He has relished the opportunity, but not without wistful thoughts of home.
“I miss the sun. I miss California beaches. I miss all of that,” he said.
Klindworth, though, likes the slower pace of life that’s offered in a community of roughly 2,400 people. It’s peaceful in Iceland, and most of all, he’s allotted time to perfect his craft.
When Klindworth graduated from Master’s in 2017, after scoring 19 career goals with 35 assists (“tremendous skill coupled with exceptional agility,” said TMU coach Jim Rickard), he had gained a new perspective. He’d come to TMU holding soccer as an obsession. He left viewing it as a gift meant to be used for God’s glory.
“Completely changed my mindset on why I play and who I play for,” he said of competing under Rickard.
Diploma in hand, Klindworth spent time playing for the Southern California Seahorses of the Premier Development League. He also took a youth coaching gig at the Santa Clarita Soccer Center, refereeing on the side.
Then came the trip to Iceland and the subsequent contract.
He signed with Alftanes (pronounced Awlf-ten-ess) and arrived in April. The club trains on Mondays and Fridays with games on Wednesdays. Klindworth uses off days to lift weights and recuperate. He’s fond of saunas, hot tubs and steam baths.
He also works as a youth camp coach, helping kids with their soccer skills from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“It’s really fun to get out there and play with the kids,” Klindworth said. “They are a real joy, real fun to play with. They teach me Icelandic here and there.”
All of Klindworth’s teammates speak English, some better than others. Most people Klindworth has met speak English, too, but he pointed to a recent situation at a local gym that highlights lingering challenges in communication.
“The gym lights were on and I went up to one of the desk managers and asked him, ‘Can I shoot some hoops?'” Klindworth said. “He was like, ‘Shoot some hoops? What do you mean?’ … I’m like, ‘Basketball. Can I play basketball?’ … He’s like, ‘Oh, basketball. Yeah, you can go play basketball.'”
Klindworth’s play on the pitch started with a bang. He scored in his first game for Alftanes as part of a resounding win. But he’s since seen a decline in playing time, an opportunity for him to hold soccer with an open hand.
“The minutes I have been getting, I’ve been doing well and just hope to continue to impress and get more minutes as the season continues,” Klindworth said.
As for what comes next, after Alftanes finishes its season in September, Klindworth is unsure.
His work visa expires around the same time, so he plans to return to California. Maybe he will train with TMU’s men’s team again, like he did after returning from Iceland the first time. Maybe he’ll follow up on an opportunity in Spain, or one in Mexico. Maybe Alftanes will bring him back for another go.
What’s clear is that Klindworth will be around the game, and his focus will be on playing for the Lord.
“At the end of the day, I just love playing,” Klindworth said. “It really, truly is just a game to me. It used to be an obsession, but it transformed into just a blessing. I really enjoy getting out on a field and doing what the Lord has given me the ability to do.”