Danny Szetela's comeback with Cosmos has championship potential

Cosmos midfielder Daniel Szetela controls the ball against

Cosmos midfielder Daniel Szetela controls the ball against FC Edmonton in the first half of a NASL soccer game at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University. (Oct. 20, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

ATLANTA - The last six months of Danny Szetela's life sound like a made-for-TV movie.

A young, former pro soccer player who had been sidelined for three years with serious knee injuries plays amateur soccer and is given a second chance by a pro soccer team that hasn't played in years. Not only does he make the team and is a starter, he becomes a vital member of the side that reaches the championship game.

The final scenes are yet to be written, or in Szetela's case, to be played, as he and his teammates will try to continue the New York Cosmos championship legacy in their first season back in competitive soccer in 29 years by winning Soccer Bowl Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The North American Soccer League final pits the Cosmos against the Atlanta Silverbacks.

"This is probably one of the biggest games of my career, being out and then being able to work so hard to be back and playing in the Soccer Bowl," he said after practice Thursday. "As an organization, it's huge, it's absolutely huge. The Cosmos not being here for 30 years and now back, the coaching staff and everyone doing a great job putting the team together to get us here."

While Szetela liked the Cosmos' chances of parading around Silverbacks Park with the NASL championship trophy, he was a bit cautious.

"I was always told by my father before he passed away, 'It's two goals and the ball is round.' So you never know," he said. "At the end of the day, it's whatever team works the hardest . . . We're coming in wanting to win and our chances are good."

The Paterson, N.J., native and former Spanish international Marcos Senna have formed arguably the league's best center midfield tandem, which has not been lost on coach Giovanni Savarese. Szetela had been playing with Icon FC in New Jersey when the Cosmos came calling.

"He has come a long way," Savarese said. "We invited him to train. Every day he looked better. Then every game he looked better. He has been a very steady player. He has done very well. I believe we haven't even seen yet the full potential of Danny Szetela."

Given his stellar performance this season, there has been talk of Szetela possibly returning to Major League Soccer, where he started as a 17-year-old in 2004.

"That's always on someone's mind, my mind," he said. "My focus has been here with the Cosmos. When I was coming back, no one wanted to give me that opportunity. The Cosmos did and I'm grateful of that. I can say that with all of the clubs I've been with, this is the happiest I've been in my whole career. Hopefully, everything works out and maybe I can stay here for long."

But a possible return to MLS? That certainly sounds like an intriguing sequel. But Szetela and the Cosmos need to take care of some business Saturday first to complete two memorable comebacks.

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