Danny Szetela is real a cautionary tale about young, U.S. up-and-comers in soccer … and how fans and the chattering class can conspire unintentionally to throw expectations wildly out of whack.
The news today is that Szetela has signed with the Cosmos. Good for him, because his career has been seriously on the skids for years.
The seriously hard times cracked Szetela in 2010 when a knee injury undercut his preseason at D.C. United. While the injury acted as accelerant on his spiral, make no mistake: the signs of a career in distress were abundant previously.
I remember the reports as Columbus signed the young midfielder in 2004 – and you would have thought by some of the glowing allegory that the guy was going to be Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna and Landon Donovan all rolled into one.
Well, he never gained traction at Crew Stadium – perhaps because he never seemed to want to be there in the first place, preferring to play closer to home in New Jersey.
But he looked good in U.S. national team appearances at under-17 and under-20 levels, which prompted Spain’s Racing Santander to sign him up. Szetela never made a first-team appearance and was loaned after two years to Brescia in Italy’s Serie B.
From there, it was back to MLS, where a season with D.C. United provided no evidence that things were headed in the right direction. He made four appearances, playing 97 total minutes.
From Steven Goff’s Washington Post report on Szetela’s release in March of 2010: “Off-field issues hindered his progress and disappointed club officials, and although he appeared in four league matches and five CONCACAF Champions League games, he didn’t make a favorable impression in competition or in the clubhouse.”
It is a very mature teenager who can read about themselves and not believe it, who can stay focused when so many people want to latch on for the ride, who can shoulder the heavy weight of expectations. It’s nobody’s fault in particular, it’s just the way it is – it’s a cautionary tale.