photo by Joe Toth/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK — To say Stuart Holden is eager to get back to playing soccer would be an understatement.
Holden has not appeared for either Bolton Wanderers or the U.S. men's national team since March 2011, picking up a knee injury in a match against Manchester United before suffering a setback as he neared his recovery last September. Holden is once again rehabbing his knee and he continues to make progress, having recently been able to run outside for the first time in months.
"It felt so good to strap some cleats on and do a little bit of jogging, but still just plugging along," said Holden. "It's been going slowly but it's been going well. I've just been making sure I don't have another relapse like I did last time, so my eyes (are) on the prize and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to getting back on the field."
As for when that is, Holden offered no timetable. He does not want to force himself back too soon in fear of suffering another injury, but he is eager to get back to the field with both the United States and the recently-relegated Trotters.
"I know once I do get back on the field, I'm going to come out flying and people better watch out," said Holden.
Watching is all Holden has been able to do for much of the past year. He confessed that while it bummed him a bit to view Bolton and the United States play without him, he did so anyway. The 26-year-old midfield even kept up with the Americans' recent summer friendlies and opening World Cup qualifiers.
"They started really well with the friendly against Scotland, the guys looked really sharp," said Holden. "But then obviously you come up against a Brazilian team that is very young and very talented. They are getting better and maybe we could have held out for a result down in Guatemala, it was very close in the end, but a lot of promising signs.
"I know it was a long couple weeks, especially coming off on the back of a season, but I think every camp together Jurgen is implementing new ideas and learning more about the team and they are only going to get better."
A regular on the U.S. team before suffering the knee injury, Holden has yet to play under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann due to his well-documented knee problems. But Holden has had contact with Klinsmann, who gave Holden an uplifting visit during his initial rehab before Holden stopped by the U.S. team's training camp in January.
Holden admitted Klinsmann's attack-minded style of play is something that interests him, as is the 4-3-3 formation the United States uses in which there are three central midfielders who can get involved in the attack.
"I'd love to play in the middle of that," said Holden. "With three, it's an ideal formation for me where I kind of have a bit of freedom but then can also come back and get on the ball and link up play. It kind of makes you salivate."
For now, the idea of getting back into the national team fold will have to wait. Holden needs to continue his rehab and then get back on the field for Bolton, where he shone during the 2010-2011 season. But that should not be a problem, not for someone as hungry to get back to playing as Holden.
"I've been working hard, twice a day for three hours at a time, so six hours total," said Holden. "I eat, sleep and live in the gym at the moment, putting on some muscle, working out but I'm feeling great. I can't wait to get back to playing."