Editor’s note: Back in February, while covering the Battery’s preseason tryouts, I fell into a short conversation in the stadium stands with a goalkeeper who had come up to compete for the Battery’s open spot behind starter Odisnel Cooper — the job left open by the retirement of Kevin Klasila. That keeper was Will Dieterich, and even after our first talk it was pretty clear that his professional career had been quite the odyssey.
Will was one of several goalkeepers who looked good in the tryout, but I had no idea who would make the cut for the week of training leading up to the start of the Carolina Challenge Cup. With Cooper nursing a hurt thumb, everyone in the competition knew there was a rare opportunity for someone to hit their mark against MLS competition. I saw Will again the day Coach Mike Anhaeuser invited him back for preseason, and he looked almost ecstatic.
In the end, of course, Eric Shannon won the job and Will returned to Florida. But we kept in touch by social media as he pursued the life of a vagabond pro goalkeeper. Recently he wrote to say that he was in Iceland, having finally cleared the last hurdle to play professionally in 2014. I asked him if he would be interested in writing about his Iceland experiences for CHSSoccer, and he agreed.
Goalkeeping has to be one of the most mentally and emotionally demanding jobs on Earth. In this first installment, Will tells his story so far. — dc
About Will Dieterich
My name is Terrance “Will” Dieterich and I am 27 years old. I grew up in Tampa, Fla., and I am currently a professional soccer player in Iceland.
I attended Newberry College in South Carolina from 2005-2009. Since then I have bounced around from various professional and semi-professional organizations all over the world. My experiences in American soccer range from the Premier Development League to a brief opportunity to train with a Major League Soccer club. I have spent time with clubs in every league in the U.S. professional soccer pyramid.
I was raised by Terry and Shirley Dieterich with one older brother, Brian. Both of my grandmothers have played a significant role in my life and my entire family has been a huge help in the process of continuing my soccer career.
How Did I End Up in Iceland?!
After a few very rough years of my soccer career, I have signed a contract to finish the current season with a club in 1st division Iceland. I’m not much of a writer, but I decided to tell a bit about my experience in the professional soccer world and the experience of being in Iceland.
So now that I have officially completed my transfer to a small club called Tindastoll, I will be spending the next two months in the town of Sauðárkrókur. The population of the town is only about 2,500 people. A big difference from my home town of Tampa, Fla.
So how did I get from sunny Tampa Bay to a country known for its harsh winters and freezing temperatures?
To save some trouble of starting with forever ago I will begin with things back in July of 2013. I recently came back from Thailand after looking at some professional clubs there, but I did not find it to be the right place for me at the time. I previously spent preseason with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League but was not able to stay on with the team for the 2013 season.
I came back to America with little money, and with the professional leagues in the states in mid-season there wasn’t much opportunity. Finding a club and continuing my soccer career truly looked like a dead end. I was forced to begin working at a local golf course and coaching youth soccer to maintain an income. During this time it was very difficult to find the energy to properly continuing training while working sometimes up to 10 days in a row, with two different jobs.
Fortunately in Tampa, I have some great former teammates and friends who were always willing to get in a training session whenever it was possible for me. One person in particular that was always willing to help was Diego Restrepo, current goalkeeper for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Once the season ended many of the players in the area would train frequently. Any chance I was able to get out of work or synchronize my schedule with theirs, I would never miss a chance to train and continue staying fit.
Honestly, at this point I had no idea where I was going to even find a club looking for a goalkeeper who had been out of work for six months. Despite that I couldn’t quit. I continued training and working, looking for clubs in America, but there was not much happening for me. I finally had a bit of a breakthrough in 2014 and decided to give everything I had left to one last try.
I had saved some money at this point and decided I would head to Wilmington, NC, for an open tryout, but unfortunately things didn’t work out, possibly because of the Major League Soccer affiliation. Many clubs in USL PRO were now getting a goalkeeper from their MLS partner club, limiting opportunities for goalkeepers.
I came back to Tampa and was told to contact the head coach of the Charleston Battery because the club was looking seriously for a keeper. After calling a few times, I finally got through and was invited up to a tryout taking place in mid-February. I was now unemployed – I’d quit all jobs for one last go — so I was able to train properly and went into Charleston feeling great.
When I arrived there were 10 goalkeepers on trial! After a day and a half, three keepers were gone. After another couple days they had narrowed it down to just three goalkeepers and I had made the cut.
Entering preseason camp was great, but I knew that a contract was the only thing that mattered at this point. Only one of the three goalkeepers on trial would be offered one.
I had no job to go back to. My apartment lease was up in a couple weeks. To say the least, I put everything on the line. A week went by and the Carolina Challenge Cup – a weeklong tournament with three MLS clubs hosted by the Battery – began.
Our first game was against Seattle Sounders and I was ecstatic with hopes to play. I truly thought I could earn the job, but I didn’t play and was released from preseason following that game. Devastated and shocked, I had no idea what to do next.
After a day, I packed up my things and began the depressing drive back to Tampa. At this point, all clubs were pretty much set with their rosters and I did not have a clue what I was going to do when I got home. I had no job, and I was supposed to be out of my current residence in a matter of weeks.
I contacted a friend with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and was going to see if he wanted to have lunch and catch up. As soon as my friend on Tampa Bay heard what had happened to me in Charleston, he mentioned that the current goalkeeper (my good friend Diego Restrepo) had torn his Achilles tendon in training that day. I was recommended to contact the general manager and inquire about training with the club again. So I did that, and I was invited to come train with them temporarily.
Once arriving there I was informed that I would not be signed because they already had plans to sign another goalkeeper. Instead of just walking away I kept training with them until he arrived.
But what looked to be a dead end somehow opened into a new road.
On what was probably going to be one of my last days training with the Rowdies, the general manager approached me and said that there was an opportunity for me to train with a club from Iceland. The team would be at the IMG facilities in Bradenton for a couple weeks training for preseason, and though they were set at goalkeeper for the season, they needed one for training in Florida.
So I went to Bradenton. I thought I did quite well and so did a few of the guys from the club. Knowing that their team was unable to sign me, they urged me to fly up and told me I should have no trouble finding a club. So with the little bit of money I had left, I bought a ticket and went. No trial set up, only a place to stay and people willing to help. Most people would say that was quite dumb. I was desperate. This was all I had left.
I arrived in Iceland in April 2014. It snowed every day the first week I was there. I wasn’t in sunny Tampa Bay anymore.
The club, Valur, was unbelievably good to me and allowed me to train while I searched for a trial. With the season approaching, between the guys I was living with and myself, we had contacted nearly every agent and club in Iceland.
Finally I got my breakthrough with Tindastoll, a club in the 1st division that was in need of a keeper ASAP. The trial was arranged and it went well. After months of working for one, somewhere, I got my contract offer a couple days later.
But then came the international paperwork. I needed a work visa to play professionally in Iceland, and a few days after agreeing on a contract, the club notified me they couldn’t complete my visa by their upcoming deadline.
After all that, I was forced to go back to America.
As you can see, the process up to this point was heartbreaking. Again I was back home, living with my brother for the time being. The club had mentioned that they might sign me in the July transfer window, so I continued training, but a couple weeks later the head coach of Tindastoll notified me they would be signing signing someone else. Another disappointment.
A few days later I was contacted out of nowhere by the general manager of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With a couple goalkeeper injuries and one goalkeeper away with his national team, they were interested in signing me to a very short contract. I was glad to be back with a club.
The night of the last day of my contract with Tampa, I walked off the pitch and into the locker room not knowing what I would do the next day. I checked my cell phone as usual and found a message from the coach of Tindastoll, offering me the contract once again. I could not believe it. My contract arrived the next day and we began the process of getting my work visa. I booked my flight.
The only paperwork I was waiting on by this point was an FBI criminal background check. I sent in fingerprints and the process was supposed to take about 24 days. After a month had gone by, I was calling every single day trying to find out the status. Finally, with two weeks left till the transfer window closed, I was informed my fingerprints could not be read properly and I would have to resubmit them. The process would start from the beginning and would take six weeks, which was clearly not an option.
But I was able to find a channeler for the FBI background check department and they processed it much quicker. All documents had been received in Iceland once I submitted the results and my work visa was being processed by Iceland’s immigration department. Time was ticking and I was finally able to get my work visa just in time.
I left for Iceland July 30th, one day before the transfer-window deadline. I was unable to play in the first game after I arrived because my international clearance from the U.S. soccer federation had not been completed, and the problem was, my transfer was not official until that took place.
July 31st was a very nervous day. I was in Iceland with 12 hours left in the transfer window and I could not get through to the US Soccer Federation. Finally after numerous calls and emails, I was informed the paperwork was sent over and my first sigh of relief in years came with two hours left in the transfer window. I was cleared to play and officially now a member of the Tindastoll soccer club.
This week has been my first chance to train with the full team, and I am very excited by the opportunity to be here. I am expecting to make my first start for the club on Thursday. I look forward to posting updates from this beautiful country as I spend the next two months trying to improve as a player, and take my career on to the next step.