From the cobble-stoned lined streets just outside of Antwerp, Zach Farnsworth walks the small town of Beveren, Belgium. While relishing in the chance to explore Europe and hone his craft, the Real Salt Lake Homegrown defender planned to take full advantage of the opportunity ahead.
Thanks to the acquisition of Real Salt Lake in January of 2022 by the David Blitzer Global Football Holdings network, for the first time in its history the Club was able to send 15 players from within its ecosystem on short-term training stints to partner clubs across Europe.
Farnsworth was the first to go, visiting SK Beveren in Belgium.
Upon touching down in Belgium, Farnsworth was taken to a match and given the opportunity to watch the team’s match against K.M.S.K. Deinze from a suite with members of the front office.
“Having the opportunity to speak with their technical director and front office staff and hear how they think and to experience the game from their perspective was incredible. They view things so differently and it was interesting to learn their ways of doing things,” Farnsworth said.
The Utah-native defender was set to train with some of the Belgian club’s youth teams but was quickly elevated to the first team.
Despite being only 20 years old, Farnsworth’s journey to training with Beveren’s first team has been more difficult than most. Two years ago in the midst of his first professional season with Real Monarchs, Farnsworth suffered a season-ending injury that would ultimately see him sidelined for 18 months.
The young defender only recently returned to the pitch, earning his first minutes with Real Monarchs in a year-and-a-half during the MLS NEXT Pro Invitational against England’s Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Homegrown would go on to make his Claret-and-Cobalt debut two months later in a Club friendly against Atlas FC from Mexico’s Liga MX.
So, for Farnsworth, who once had dreams of playing in Europe but derailed due to injury, the chance to see aspects of that dream realized means more.
“For me, this trip gave me a taste of the dreams I had as a little boy of suiting up to play in Europe,” Farnsworth said. “And while it was just a short time, it certainly opens up more possibilities for the future.”
The Club’s Director of Special Projects Arnold Rijsenburg, one of Farnsworth’s former RSL Academy coaches reflected on his performance in Belgium, saying this, “After being injured for more than a year Zack did really well. He understood the game, technically he didn’t struggle at all and Zack being a real professional was very appreciated by the staff and players of Beveren. The thing he needs to work on is the decision making process. The last week he was in Beveren you could already see a significant difference with the first week.”
For now Farnsworth returns to his home state of Utah with sights set on the upcoming 2023 Major League Soccer Season where he hopes to break into the first team, grateful for the experience and lessons learned while abroad.
“The total experience was awesome, I was able to visit Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, while experiencing a new way of training and playing outside of the Real Salt Lake bubble I’ve existed in since I was a young teenager,” Farnsworth said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have gone and I look forward to bringing back some of those things I learned to the Club.”