New York Cosmos

After three years away, Szetela set to make pro soccer return on Saturday with Cosmos



It’s been a long and frustrating road for Danny Szetela.

The former U.S. Olympic Team player and past U.S. Men’s National Team call-up has been out of soccer since early 2010, after a knee injury and resulting surgery lost him his place on D.C. United. Two more knee surgeries later, and Szetela now finally on the comeback trail.

This Saturday, when the New York Cosmos face the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Szetela could mark the first pro playing appearance since October 24, 2009. That is 1,379 days. Or three years, nine months, and ten days from when the bottom began to drop out.

All the time away from the game has helped Szetela appreciate the time he has with his new team, the New York Cosmos.

“It feels great,” Szetela told SBI at the New York Cosmos media day on Monday about returning to professional soccer. “It was a long three years. You’ve got your ups and downs in this sport, and unfortunately injuries come with that. It feels great to be back out there running, and the knee is feeling good.”

Prior to Szetela’s first injury to his right knee with D.C. United in 2010, his future was still bright, despite returning to Major League Soccer after spells in Spain and Italy. As a 16-year-old, Szetela was selected by the Columbus Crew in a weighted lottery during 2004 season, joining Major League Soccer just weeks after graduating from the U.S. Soccer residency program in Bradenton, Florida.

While he made only 34 appearances with the Crew from 2004-2007, he was a valuable member of the U.S. Under-20 squad, helping lead the team at the 2007 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships and later that summer in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. The U.S. finished in the quarterfinals in that tournament, and Szetela scored three times.

His international performances earned him a move to Racing Santander, where he failed to break into the first team, despite a positive season with Brescia in Italy in 2008/2009 in Serie B.

But Szetela’s career was stopped in it’s tracks by three knee surgeries, the last of which replaced his meniscus with one from a cadaver. Earlier this year, Szetela began his return to fitness, and he proved himself in the U.S. Open Cup with Icon FC, making it to the second round proper after starting in the qualifying rounds. Although he’s healthy and training with his teammates, the 26-year-old midfielder knows that he still has a long way to go before he is at the level he once was.

“(I’ve learned) just how different of a player I am,” Szetela remarked. “I’m still every day getting better and better, getting back to where I was. Unfortunately when you have three years off and then train and sign with a professional team again, you’re not just going to snap your fingers and be back to where you were.

“You’ve just got to continue to work hard and see what the future brings. Everyday it’s a pleasure to be out there on the field.”

Now ten years since becoming a professional soccer player himself, Szetela looks at the wide-eyed youngsters who are hungry for a chance and is thankful. He says that it’s important to have young players in the locker room so the veterans get a reality check, and can understand that one bad game could mean losing a starting spot or a key role on the team.

Sometimes you need those young guys in the locker room,” Szetela said,” to see where you are. I remember when I was their age and I was like ‘oh these guys are old,’ and now I’m that old guy on the team. It’s great to have the young guys around and to be a leader on the team.”

August 3 marks not just the likely return of Szetela to professional soccer but the Cosmos return to official games as well. Nearly 30 years ago, the Cosmos played their final North American Soccer League game, a 1-0 loss on the road to the Chicago Sting.

With the return of the NASL, and the return of the Cosmos as a professional franchise, Szetela said he is looking forward for the team to be back on the field and for the name that resonates around the world to matter in the present, not just the past.

“It’s going to feel great, not only for myself being back after three years, but also the Cosmos, who have been gone for 30 years,” Szetela said. “Guys are so excited, I’m excited, and I just can’t wait to walk on that field on Saturday night, starting or not, it doesn’t matter.

“Just being in the atmosphere, there’s going to be a lot of people and I’m just excited and I can’t wait until Saturday night.”

  • Isaac

    I also recall Szetela getting into a bar fight and getting locked up for a spell. That ones from the The Shin Guardian if you want to fact check.

    Still, a talented player, in my mind. Definitely had some skill on the ball and an eye for the pass. He and Bradley partnered really well in the central midfield at that U20 World Cup. If he does get his ish together in time, there’s no reason he couldn’t make a World Cup push. He’s got stiff competition though. Even Kyle Beckerman is ahead of him with that showing at the Gold Cup, and that’s the last compeition Juergen will have to experiment like that, so Danny’s going to have to get a move on.


      • Dante

        The Shin Guardian is a reputable site? Since when? Oh right, MLS is paying him now, so they legitimized him.


    • Old School

      “Pushing” water bottles in the faces of players as a waterboy, maybe.


    • Josh D

      This. DC United did not drop him because he needed knee surgery, which is what this article would make you think. We dropped him because he was immature, getting into trouble with the law, and not listening to King Benny.

      He was arrested a year or two ago, which is when I gave up on his career. He was stellar until he let the bad boy image consume his soccer one. He’s a lesson in what not to do, not a happy comeback.

      You want a happy comeback? Talk about Bobby W., someone whose club essentially gave up on him and he had to work himself up through their essentially amateur squad and was named to the preliminary Gold Cup roster, and who we’ll probably see in the August friendly.


    • derrick

      World Cup? You’re high. He’s not even in consideration. Not even if the kid scored 30 goals.


  • slowleftarm

    One day, you’re the bright young star of US Soccer. Then, another day, years later, you’re playing for Hempstead Cosmos on some college field on the side of a highway in Long Island. Wow. Kinda feel bad for the guy.


    • jlm

      you know who he is. you are going to be watching him play professional soccer, or at least reading about him playing professional soccer. pretty sure he has no clue who you are and has no reason or desire to know who you are. don’t think you need to feel bad for him.


      • slowleftarm

        What are you the dude’s little brother or something? Lighten up.


    • sanktpaulista

      You say Hempstead like that’s not in New York. You know, because Harrison, New Jersey.


  • NateinSF

    I thought this guy was working as a bartender during summer breaks on the Jersey shore rather than focus on conditioning? No doubt there were injury issues but if I’m not mistaken this website seeming to suggest he also had some “off the field” issues…


  • Chicago mike

    Does this league have other teams? Apparently no newsworthy ones…. Surely another team(s) has made a signing. No?


    • White Kix

      Since the article makes several mentions of a game Saturday night, but then never mentions an opponent, site, or viewing options, I am ssuming they will either;
      a) play intra squad scrimmages every week
      b) tour the country playing the Washington generals while we all watch in amazement of the mighty Cosmos


  • Carlos

    I remember reading a French soccer magazine years back where they had him as one of the top 20 youth players in world soccer, and now…. Sad story


  • Tomasz

    And the mighty New York Cosmos return today,doing D2 like no other team has ever done,empire state building going Cosmos green,this weeks Cosmos gala,opening the NYSE,and the coming lifting of the NASL up to new heights to challenge MLS in the years to come!We welcome the USA’s most legendary soccer team ever back!


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