Photo courtesy of DCUnited.com
Danny Szetela could have kept on chasing the European dream, but he had spent enough time on the bench to know that he needed a complete change of scenery.
That desire for a fresh start, and the chance for regular playing time led Szetela to come back to MLS, where he has joined D.C. United.
"There were some other opportunities in Europe but with me not playing for so long I felt like I needed to come back home get some of my confidence back," Szetela told SBI on Wednesday. "I want to get back to playing the way I know I can and I feel like D.C. is the perfect place for that to happen."
Szetela has endured a rough time in Europe since leaving MLS. He signed with Racing Santander, but never played a league match before being loaned to Brescia after a half season. Though he didn't play much in his first half season with Brescia, he was enjoying the new club and his time in Italy. He worked his way into a starting role, only to see Brescia manager Serse Cosmi fired less than two months into the season. He never played again for Brescia as he endured a series of groin injuries and never did figure into the plans of new coach Nedo Sonetti, who would eventually be fired by Brescia as well, late in the 2008/2009 season.
With his loan at Brescia ended, and his contract with Racing Santander expired, Szetela had the option of either pursuing other possibilities in Europe or returning to MLS. With the possibility existing that he could land with D.C. United if he signed with MLS, Szetela jumped at the chance. When FC Dallas passed on the chance to draft him in the MLS Allocation Draft, D.C. United stepped up and acquired a player who the club once targeted back when Peter Nowak was the team's head coach.
"D.C.'s a team that I've seen a lot growing up and they've always played some of the best soccer in the league," Szetela said. "They've always liked to play, they keep the ball on the ground, not just kicking it up. That's how I like to play.
"You look at the guys they have, players like Christian Gomez and Jaime (Moreno), it's a good team and I think I can fit in here."
When asked about other possible MLS destinations, Szetela acknowledged that he would have been open to a return to Columbus Crew, or a move to New York, but believes D.C. United is a perfect environment to recapture the form that helped him star for the U.S. Under-20 national team in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup. Form that helped him earn three senior national team caps.
"It's important for me to come back home to America and get my confidence back and get back to playing," Szetela said. "I don't see my time in Europe as me not making it because I did play well enough to play before Brescia changed their coach.
"Now I'm looking to get back to that level and keep getting better," Szetela said. "If I do that I know I'll have another chance to back to Europe."
Szetela isn't just thinking about a potential return to Europe. He also still has national team aspirations, having earned his last cap in the U.S. national team's 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad & Tobago oon Oct. 15, 2008.
"That's the ultimate and being able to play for my country is one of the highlights of my career," Szetela said. "I know I can't get back there unless I'm playing games so that's another reason for me to come back here and fight for a place."
Playing time isn't going to come easy on a stacked D.C. United team, but learning from a veteran like Ben Olsen, and playing in multiple competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Open Cup should give Szetela opportunities to play and show the form that once made him one of the top young American prospects in the national team system not too long ago.