Danny Szetela, who recently graduated from Residency this past May, arrived into camp with the U-17s this afternoon with a smile from ear to ear. The reason? The 17-year old midfielder had just finalized a deal to sign with MLS a day earlier, and will find out his new team next Thursday (July 22) when the league holds a weighted lottery for his services. Szetela would have been with the Under-20s in Northern Ireland competing in the 2004 Milk Cup, but he was unable to leave before he completed his deal with MLS. With the deal done, the Clifton, N.J., native was available to participate in the Under-17s three-game camp in Minnesota and Ellinger called him in on Thursday night. Before finally signing with MLS, the hard-nosed midfielder was courted by a number of clubs of in England, including Everton, in what was a whirlwind few months. Now that he’s settled down though and made his decision, Szetela talked with ussoccer.com this afternoon after getting a bite to eat for lunch and explained why he chose MLS, what he hopes to accomplish and if there’s any bling-bling he may be purchasing after cashing his first check.
ussoccer.com: How does it feel to finally sign a contract with MLS and become a professional?
Danny Szetela: “I’m very excited to finally get something done. A lot of the pressure is off. I had to make a decision to play in Europe or MLS and for now I’ve made the decision to play in the MLS and stay with my family. Hopefully, by the next week I’ll be with my team and playing.”
ussoccer.com: There was talk of you going to play at Everton or other teams in Europe, but you ended up deciding to stay in the U.S. What was the reason you decided to play for MLS and not go overseas?
DS: “One of the main reasons I decided to come here was because of my family. My dad passed away two years ago and then I was away from home, away from my family for two years (while in Residency). I just wanted to stay here with my family and spend some time with them for a few more years. Then, hopefully I can head over to Europe. I thank Everton for giving me the chance to go there, but maybe in a couple years I will have that opportunity again.”
ussoccer.com: You grew up in Clifton, N.J., so any desire to play for the MetroStars?
DS: “That’s where I’d want to play. It’s my No. 1 choice, but I’ll just have to wait and see. The main reason is because I want to be with my family. But, I’m excited to just play anywhere and hopefully wherever I end up my family can come with me.”
ussoccer.com: What are your expectations heading into the league?
DS: “I don’t know if I’d start right away because I haven’t been with the team at all this year. I still have to meet the guys (on the team) and get to know them. Then I just have to work my way up to the starting team. It will all depend on the team and how I am able to step in and get along with the guys and the coaching staff. Right now I just want to develop. I’m young and looking to get better and that is my first priority.”
ussoccer.com: What do you think you can bring to MLS?
DS: “I want to bring some of my creative abilities to MLS. In the past there was (Carlos) Valderrama and other players that I looked up to that have now since retired and I just want to come in and bring some of that creativeness to the field.”
ussoccer.com: You’re the fifth player involved in U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program the last two years to sign with MLS, along with Freddy Adu, Guillermo Gonzalez, Eddie Gaven and Michael Bradley. Talk about becoming another young rising star in the league.
DS: “I just want to come in and make soccer in the U.S. bigger. It’s getting bigger already, but during my time in MLS I want to try and make it the biggest thing I can. Freddy is doing a great job with that and I just want to try to take a role as he has and make soccer bigger. Ever since Eddie first signed last year I’ve watched him. He wasn’t playing much his first season, but now he’s starting and is doing great. He’s one of the best players on the team right now. Hopefully, whatever team I go to I can follow in his footsteps.”
ussoccer.com: Do you still talk to any of your past U-17 teammates that are in MLS and have they given you any advice about coming into the league?
DS: “I talk to Freddy more than Eddie, but I’ve talked to them both since they signed with MLS. I haven’t talked to them about coming into the league too much, but before I start with my team I will for sure.”
ussoccer.com: What do you want to accomplish in MLS?
DS: “I want to continue to develop and become as good as I can. I want to win a championship with whatever MLS team I’m with, that is definitely one of my goals. Also, I hope I can play well enough in the league to make it to the full men’s team for the U.S.”
ussoccer.com: Who are the players you look up to in MLS?
DS: “I've always looked up to Landon (Donovan), Bobby (Convey), DaMarcus (Beasley), all the young guys that came through Residency and now are with the full U.S. Men’s (National) Team.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve played both central and outside midfielder for the U-17s and U-20s. Would you prefer to play one or the other as a professional?
DS: “I like both positions and am willing to play which ever spot is available. If center-mid is taken and the outside is open then I would play there. It really doesn’t matter to me.”
ussoccer.com: How did your two years in Residency help you prepare for a professional career?
DS: “I think if I never went to Residency and I just stayed in high school I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Residency has the best coaches and the best players that you are training with every day. Being there with the whole team, living together and playing together, it’s the best you can have. It’s a professional environment and that’s where you are going to develop faster than in high school or your club team at home.”
ussoccer.com: Now that you’ve signed your contract anything you’re looking to purchase?
DS: “Actually, right now I’m just concentrating on getting my permit and my license because I didn’t have much time to get that while in Florida (while in Residency). So, hopefully when I get back and I settle down with my team I can get that and then maybe get a car. Right now, the most important thing is taking care of my family. We’ve never had that much money and now that I have some money I’m going to try and take care of them. I may get one little thing, but then invest the rest.”