Born: June 17, 1987
Daniel Gregory Szetela was born June 17, 1987 in Passaic and grew up in Clifton. Both parents were of Polish origin and the Szetela household was bilingual. Danny’s father, Julian, had been a high-level soccer player in his home country, and he taught Danny the intricacies of the game. A quick, multitalented player, Danny excelled in local programs from an early age.
Julian passed away when Danny was a freshman at Clifton High. When Danny was invited to train at the US Soccer Federation’s academy in Bradenton, Florida midway through that first school year, the 15-year-old accepted the offer. Interestingly, he turned down offers from Manchester United and Everton to join their development teams.
Soon Danny’s play as a midfielder earned him a slot on America’s Under-17 squad. In 2003, he was one of the youngest players competing at the U-17 World Cup in Finland and scored two goals in four games. In 2004, Danny was honored as Parade Magazine Player of the Year. He was a Parade All-American in 20902, 2003 and 2004.
In 2005, as a member of the U-20 team, Danny netted three goals in the World Youth Championships—including two against Poland. Ironically, his parents had urged him to play for Poland’s national team.
By this time, Danny had become a pro. He was drafted by the Columbus Crew of MLS in 2004 at the age of 17, with all the expectations that come with teen phenom status. Danny saw sporadic playing time with Columbus in 2004 and 2005, often out of position as a defensive midfielder, and then battled injuries for almost all of 2007. That same year, however, he was healthy enough to make his international debut for Team USA. Danny came into a match against Switzerland in time to set up Michael Bradley’s game-winning goal. In 2008, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
Danny had always dreamed of playing for his hometown MetroStars, but that seemed less and less likely. When Racing Santander, a team in the Spanish League, offered him a job he left for Europe. A few months later the Green and Whites loaned Danny to Brescia Calcio of the Italian B League to get more playing time. He scored one goal during 2008–09.
Danny returned to the U.S. in 2009, playing in four games for D.D. United. A serious knee injury suffered prior to the 2010 campaign failed to heal after two complex surgeries and ultimately required a meniscus transplant from a donor corpse. He finally made it back to the field in 2013, working his way up from ICON FC in Montville to the NASL New York Cosmos, who re-signed him for 2014.