Danny Szetela: “Even now, I was playing with the Cosmos B, then the NPSL season ended, what am I going to do? I can’t just sit. Do I wait and hope that a new league will start and the Cosmos will bring me back? Or do I find a job? Do I call it quits? I am not ready to retire yet. The hopes were high. I prayed every day. The new league was announced, and I am hoping I go back to the Cosmos.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Danny Szetela is waiting for the phone call, the call from the Cosmos, saying that they want him back to play in 2019.
The Cosmos B captain said he certainly would entertain offers from the team, which will return to the playing field in the Founders Cup, the kickoff of the National Premier Soccer League pro division next year.
“I’m definitely considering returning,” Szetela said in a telephone interview Tuesday, “even if it’s not as the captain. The Cosmos have stolen my heart since 2013 and that’s why I would love to be back. We have to see what’s going to happen. The league’s just been announced. Hopefully I’ll get a phone call very shortly about signing a new contract with them.”
The NPSL announced the new competition last week. At the present time, the Founders Cup will have 11 teams participating from August through November after the NPSL season runs from May through July.
“But at the end of the day it’s going to take time,” Szetela said. “The league is new. The Cosmos want to do the right thing. They want to make sure they grow the right way. It’s exciting either way, if I play with them or not. But I am looking forward to seeing the league grow.
For the time being the Clifton, N.J. is playing not for one, but two teams these days — for Cedar Stars Academy in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and for Wellington Polonia in the Garden State Soccer League.
The passion is still there, although it certainly has made for some challenging weekends and turnarounds.
“I want to continue. I want to keep playing,” Szetela said, noting that he has played for Polonia on Saturday at 9 p.m. and then turning around for an 11 a.m. game with Cedar Stars at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“So, I’m like ‘Wow, I’m 31-years-old, can I do this?’ I’ve been doing it. I love the game so much. My body feels great. I’m still in great shape. I work out and I do my training with the team ad I’m ready to keep going. I’m not ready to retire. From all the injuries that I have, everything feels great.”
His recovery period?
“Sleep and then have some breakfast in the morning before the next game, plus the driving,” he said. “The games are in New Jersey, New York. The driving I have been doing for 2 1/2 years going from New Jersey to Cosmos practice, which I’ve gotten used to. I just put on the sports radio, especially if the games are on Sunday morning. I listen to fantasy football, make sure all my players are healthy, to make sure I can set my lineup before the game starts.”
When the game does start, Szetela usually has found himself on artificial turf, which isn’t the best thing for any players, especially veterans with knee operations.
“It’s not like we’re playing on beautiful grass pitch,” he said. “You go to the Cosmopolitan League and you sometimes play on these turf fields that sometimes you feel you’re playing on concrete. You know what? At least I’m still able to have a chance to kick a soccer ball. I’m happy I’m getting my games in, my fitness, my mental stability, everything, keeping my mind on the game. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting re-signed with the Cosmos.”
There is a good reason why Szetela has an affinity for the Cosmos. They saved his professional career when they signed him in 2013 to play in the North American Soccer League.
Szetela had suffered a career-threatening knee injury several years prior and it appeared to be a longshot for anyone to come back from. Anyone, but Szetela.
So, it should not be surprising that Szetela has savored the moments he has on the field. During his six-year tenure with the Cosmos organization, he has been a part of three Soccer Bowl champions — 2013, 2015 and 2016.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “That time in 2013 when the Cosmos finally gave me that opportunity and I signed the contract and I go, ‘I’m not going to let my family down and let the Cosmos down. If they give me the opportunity, I worked hard every day.’
“Even now, I was playing with the Cosmos B, then the NPSL season ended, what am I going to do? I can’t just sit. Do I wait and hope that a new league will start and the Cosmos will bring me back? Or do I find a job? Do I call it quits? I am not ready to retire yet. The hopes were high. I prayed every day. The new league was announced, and I am hoping I go back to the Cosmos.”
It appears several former Cosmos are coming home not to roost, but perhaps to make a nest, so to speak with the NPSL pro team. Portland Timbers 2 defender Jimmy Mulligan signed with Cedar Stars and played in its 1-1 draw with the N.Y. Greek-Americans at the Met Oval Sunday night. Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder Leo Fernandes and defender Hunter Gorskie are in negotiations with the CSL clubs as well.
“It’s another opportunity,” Szetela said. “And now this is an opportunity where a league is giving all players from middle class, low class, players that should be playing professional soccer in this country [who] will now have an opportunity in the league to grow. You have these independent clubs that are their own clubs that can go do their own thing and not worry about what’s going on here, what’s going on there. You have these rules, those rules. Everything’s going to be open. Clubs are going to go out into the community, do clinics, do whatever and if they do see potential in a player, bring him in and move forward and grow soccer in this country.”
Several times during the interview Szetela said he was hoping to be re-signed by the Cosmos, but he cautioned that if another club offered him a decent contract, he could sign with them. He said that he has been “talking to some clubs. I’ve been talking to some people about going to Poland.”
Szetela’s parents emigrated from Poland.
“So, whatever comes first, whatever is the best for the family is what I’m going to do because I still have got a lot of gas in the tank and I’m ready to go,” he said.
Szetela had hoped for title No. 4, but Cosmos B fell short in the NPSL quarterfinals last summer, losing to FC Motown, which hosted and lost the championship game to Miami FC 2.
He gave his experience with the club a big thumb’s up.
“Honestly, it felt like it was the first team,” the veteran midfielder said. “We were all treated professionally like the first team was, except that we were Cosmos B. Everything was great. Unfortunately, we lost in the playoffs. Our goal was to win the whole league. But that’s the beauty of the game, you always have another opportunity in the future. So, we’re excited. And I’m excited for the Cosmos that they’re going to be playing again. Hopefully I can be part of them in the future.
“Hopefully, we’ll start getting phone calls soon and start putting a team together and we can move forward and hopefully have a good ole reunion with the Cosmos.”