Friends honor stricken soccer player

Danny Smuts, Jr. with family at Naval Medical Center Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

Felled by a spinal stroke during a semi-final game between FC Heat BU15 and FC Heat BU14 last July, Danny Smuts, Jr. 15, continues to inspire as he seeks a full recovery at Naval Medical Center Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

The final game in the bracket was postponed until everybody found out the severity of Danny’s injury. It was severe alright, an injury usually seen in people over 60 years old. However, the finals match finally went on, this time on Saturday, March 16, dedicated to Danny and his family regardless of the score.

At first, doctors suspected Danny had transverse myelitis, a rare inflammatory disease that can damage the spinal cord and cause paralysis. Subsequent tests show he suffered a spinal stroke, which is caused by a disruption of blood flow to the spine. His doctors at Children’s Hospital weren’t sure what caused the disruption and they’re not sure what recovery he can expect.

Just 1.2 percent of stroke cases are spinal strokes, and patients can see either a gradual recovery over several months or they may never regain the use of their legs, bowel and bladder functions.

Danny grew up wearing an FC Heat uniform and moved through from Rec to All-Stars, to Competitive in the blink of an eye. Danny Sr. did the same, only as a coach. Danny’s older brother Drew was one of Heat’s better players in the years he spent with us, and their youngest Jacob is currently moving swiftly through Rec with his dad coaching. Mom, too, has spent many of her days managing and fund raising for Heat teams.

It was obvious that Danny would make a great player wherever he played, but he and his family always felt that FC Heat and Escondido Soccer Club were their home.

Steve Yorke,  coaching director, remembers Danny in a Dave Shelton game when he was 11-years-old, “I remember that game clearly,” he said, ” as I had decided to play Danny up front coming in from both wings.

“Danny scored three goals in about 10 minutes, one with his left, one with his right and one with his head. The team we played was quite strong and their coach wanted to know all about him after the game.”

To help with expenses not covered by insurance, friends have started a Gofundme campaign that has raised more than $18,000 in the past seven months. those wanting to learn more and contribute should visit

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