NY Pancyprian Freedoms forward Shavon John-Brown in a match with Grenada. Grenada Football Association Images
By Ralph 'Onz' Chery
Nov. 25th, 2018
The odds of a professional player to earn a national team cap is about six percent. The CSL’s top flight is in the fifth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid yet five of the registered players have represented their countries.
Cedar Stars Academy midfielder Danny Szetela was a member of the U.S. men national team from 2007 to 2008, NY Pancyprian Freedoms forward Alecko Eskandarian played a game for the U.S. in 2003, his teammate, Shavon John-Brown is currently playing for Grenada.
Lansdowne Yonkers F.C.’s midfielder Dawda Bah took part in nine matches for Gambia from 2000 to 2011 while his teammate Aaron Dennis is a member of the United States Virgin Islands national team.
Before playing for the United States men’s team, Szetela starred in the country's youth national teams. The Jersey native netted two goals in four games in the U-17 2003 World Cup, in which he was the second youngest player in the Yanks’ roster.
Szetela later played in the U-20 World Cup in 2007. He tallied three goals in the tournament, including a brace against his parents’ country, Poland—he kissed the U.S.A logo on his jersey after scoring his first goal.
Danny Szetela celebrating with his teammates after scoring in the U-20 World Cup in 2007 versus Poland. USA TODAY Sports Images
The 31-year-old played versus megastars as Marcelo, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani in the 2007 U-20 World Cup.
Four months after the U-20 World Cup, Szetela made his debut with the men’s team in a friendly versus Switzerland. His career with the youth national team was astounding but doesn’t compare to the joy he felt when he played for the men’s team.
“It was awesome. Many times as a player, when you get to represent your country it’s an honor,” Szetela said. “I played with the youth national team in the U-20 World Cup, the U-17 World Cup, the Olympics but when you step on the field to play with the full team it’s a different feeling.”
The Cosmos B captain rolled his terrific youth national career into his first cap on the senior team, assisting Michael Bradley’s 1-0 winner in the 86th minute at 20 years of age.
After the match versus Switzerland, Szetela only played in two more matches for the U.S. The American’s international career ended prematurely but as mentioned there’s two other CSLers who’s names are still on a national team's roster: John-Brown and Dennis.
Although John-Brown was born in Canada, the 23-year-old decided to play for his parents’ country of birth and the country where he was raised, Grenada.
NY Pancyprian Freedoms forward Shavon John-Brown representing Grenada. Grenada Football Association Images
It started in 2012, when he was 16. The Pancyprians’ forward was subbed in the 80th minute in Grenada’s match versus Guyana, which they ended up losing, 2-1.
As expected 16-year-old John-Brown wasn’t the most confident player on the pitch.
“I’ve never been so scared to play football in my life,” the Canadian-born joked. “[But] it was a great experience to be around some of the players I always looked up to, for example Shane Rennie, just being around the team I learned a lot.
“I just was a little scared when I came on the field but after my first touch everything started to fall in place.”
Everything did start to fall into place, John-Brown has now played in 17 matches for Grenada, scoring four goals. He was on target versus Sint Maarten, bagged a brace against Porto Rico in the last World Cup qualifiers and also found the net against Saint Lucia in a friendly.
Things fell into even better places, the starlet was selected as Grenada Player of the Year in 2017. John-Brown last played for the Spice Boyz on November 16th in a 5-2 win over Saint-Martin, in which he racked an assist.
17 international caps, four goals and 2017 Grenada Player of the Year award at 23 isn’t enough to quench John-Brown’s thirst for success.
“I don't think I can say I'm satisfied with where I am because that would be a lie, I do think I can take it to another level, which I'm willing to do right now,” he said.
John-Brown started playing in the CSL with the Freedoms this season and already found something from the club he wants to transfer into Grenada’s national team, who’s coached by a former Pancyprians player, Shalrie Joseph.
“My first season there [with the Freedoms] is one of a kind,” the Grenada midfielder said.
“I can tell you that the group of guys there, anyone would love to play with them, the team spirit and determination is there, that's what I'm trying to bring into the national team, because once you got a team that is willing to work for each other, it can take that team a long way.”
John-Brown is the Freedoms’ top scorer in the CSL, tallying five goals in as many appearances.
As for the other three players with international caps in the league, Dennis, who played two matches for United States Virgin Islands this year, notched one CSL goal after joining Lansdowne in October. Former Gambia international Bah has two CSL goals to his name so far this season while ex-U.S.A striker Eskandarian has yet to play for the Freedoms this campaign but was on the scoring sheet three times in two outings last season.