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Holden looking to continue his rapid rise

Stuart Holden 1 (ISIphotos)

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From Olympic standout to orchestrator of the potent Houston Dynamo offense, to U.S. national team supersub, it has been a whirlwind 15 months for midfielder Stuart Holden, and things could get even better for him on Saturday.

With midfielder Clint Dempsey slated to miss the United States' World Cup qualifier against Honduras at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula, Holden may be called upon to fill in his absence. Holden knows that starting at Honduras in a potential World Cup berth-clinching qualifier is a big challenge, but one he believes he is well-equipped to handle.

"If I'm called upon, I'm ready," said Holden. "I played in the Gold Cup this summer and got some experience at the international level. You want to step on the field and you want to play, and if given that opportunity I won't let anybody down."

If Holden gets the nod on Saturday (Benny Feilhaber and Jose Francisco Torres are other options to replace Dempsey), expect for him to provide a different dimension to the U.S. attack. Holden is a more natural winger than Dempsey, and along with the hoards of energy he provides, the Dynamo midfielder is also capable of providing quality crosses from the right flank, as he has shown in recent national team appearances.

"He is an excellent soccer player," said defender Steve Cherundolo. "He brings some dangerous attacks, his technical ability is very good as well as his free kicks. Hopefully he can continue to show that and I'm positive that he will."

Holden, who has eight caps and two goals for the senior naional team, is not just thriving on the international scene, he is also performing well at the club level. With the departue of Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto FC last winter, Holden was handed the keys to the Houston Dynamo offense this season, and he has not disappointed, helping Houston clinch an automatic berth in the MLS playoffs.

Despite his high level of play, Holden is on the low end of the MLS pay scale (earning approximately $34,000), a circumstance due in part to Holden's desire to play out his original MLS contract and become a free agent rather than signing a contract extension. With this being the final season of his current contract, the 24-year old is unsure what his next move will be.

"It is no secret that I am on low wages, and the end of this year is going to be big for me in terms of what is next in my career," said Holden after the U.S. national team's practice on Tuesday. "I'm still not 100% sure whether it's going to be MLS or whether I'm going to make the jump overseas."

Holden is keenly aware that making the jump to Europe six months prior to the World Cup could damage his chances of playing in South Africa next summer, given the adjustment period that most Americans go through when joining new European clubs.

"It is important for me in my development to keep playing in order to push myself to be a part of that World Cup team," said Holden. "That is a big goal for me."

Regardless of where he lands this winter, if Holden can continue to progress as a player at the same rate he has enjoyed over the past 15 months, playing in the 2010 World Cup will become just the latest achievement in Holden's blossoming career.


What do you think of Holden? Do you see him earning the start on Saturday? See him leaving MLS after this season? What league/club would he be a good fit on?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I wasn’t saying I want Holden over Dempsey. As much as he pisses me off, I agree he’s a great player and one of the tops in our pool. I just wish he would put a full 90’s effort in all games, instead of just big ones . . . But really, that’s as much a problem with scheme. I would have a lot less issue with Dempsey’s lack of effort at those times if the US didn’t go into a bunker as soon as they score a goal (10 minutes into a match is ALWAYS to early). That’s on Bradley and the team as a whole to keep an aggressive edge. It keeps Clint closer to goal and not playing as much defense.

    My point in the post before was that he wouldn’t have brought anything better to the table in the Gold Cup game you referenced than what Holden brought. And that’s because of the nature of that game.

    Understand, I’m a Dynamo supporter and a fan of Holden. I think he has a ton of upside and growth left in him, but I’m not ready to anoint him the next Reyna. As of right now, I like him in a sub role. What I take a lot of heart in is that he never seems intimidated by the moment in the games he’s in. And that’s not true with some of the other guys on our squad.

  2. JP- Any article on a US player eventually boils down to Bradley and how stupid everyone thinks he is. Holden is seen as a logical replacement for Dempsey so the fact that Bradley hasn’t seen fit to replace Dempsey with Holden before now leads you here.

    Dempsey has produced quite a bit for the US, especially in the clutch,so I am willing to accept his flaws in lieu of a better alternative. Apparently you are not.

  3. Jimmy, I agree on several of your points except I don’t think you can put the gold cup final on Holden the way you seem to be doing. Dempsey wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in that game. The US didn’t keep possession well and lacked any service up top. USMT Dempsey doesn’t keep possession well and wouldn’t have gotten any service. He also doesn’t play much defense, so the final score line just might have been even worse, in fact.

    Nobody is saying Demps plays bad or lazy in the EPL, he doesn’t. He does however for the USMT against teams he feels are beneath him in talent. From what I was told by my Revs fans this has been a knock on the guy going back to college and his time in NE (and they love him). He knows that isn’t the case in the EPL. I really think it comes down to a lack of concentration for him and a belief that he can half-ass it in CONCACAF and still dominate them.

    I’m also confused how an article about Holden became a sounding board for pro/con Clint talk . . .

  4. “weak, misdirected shots Dempsey tries from outside the box? “- andrew in tampa


    Weak, misdirected shots sometimes go in.

    Holden, who reminds me of a young Beckham, should take all the US dead balls.

  5. Alex,

    Let me try to make myself clearer. If talent were the only factor, most of the US team could probably play regularly for Fulham.

    However, and this is something I rarely see posters discuss; talent is just one factor to take into account when a manager is trying to decide if a player belongs on a team. I can’t possibly cover them all but they include things like: character, how the player’s skills fit into the scheme, their mental approach, their level of intelligence, etc., etc. These all contribute to a manager’s view of a player. You and I will probably never be completely privy to Hodgson’s or Bradley’s view of Dempsey. This sometimes makes it hard to understand their decisions as it relates to that player and it is why “less talented” players (on many teams) often play more regularly than “more talented” players.

    Given all the bad things you and others say about Dempsey, some of which is merited, why do you think Hodgson and Bradley keep him around? Because, for both teams, particularly the US, no other midfielder, either present or on the horizon, can do quite what he does. He is consistently productive. For the US, Donovan is the closest thing but he does things in a very different fashion. If it’s late in a US game and you need a goal who do you turn to? Jozy is as productive but he is a full time forward (and can be as easily accused by you of drifting in and out of games like Clint).Just examine the record.

    So you say give someone else a chance to be the hero? When? During important qualifiers? Why do I say no competition? There is no midfielder in the US player pool who can be relied on like Clint. Torres? Talented player but 2 goals in 5 years with Pachuca. Benny? Nowhere near as likely to score. Holden? I like him and his time will come but what did he do for the US in the Gold Cup final? None of those guys are scorers per se. Do you really think Hodgson or any EPL coach would tolerate a “lazy” player? Do you all really believe he doesn’t care about playing for the US? Why was he bawling like a baby after we lost the Confed Cup final to Brazil?

    I don’t think he is irreplaceable but until the US can find a way to reliably replace his productivity in some fashion they will always be better off with him available for selection than without him.

    Oh and I never thought Ching was “safe” but that is another story.

  6. here’s one area that Stu is definitely better than Dempsey. He is a much better ball striker by far. Remember all those weak, misdirected shots Dempsey tries from outside the box? Stu puts more of those on target and in the back of the net. I am a fan of the Fulham Dempsey, but the USMNT Demps puts me in the dumps.

  7. i wouldn’t be surprised to see Stu play great in the last 2 qualifiers, play great for the Dynamo in the playoffs, and be starting for some good European team next spring…

  8. @jimmy I see your point in they get to play together more, but thats not what you said, you said they have more talent which is not true. That was my point, and I definetly don’t see them winning a seven game series but arguing that is ridiculous cause we’ll never find out so Ill stick to the other stuff. Dempsey does have competition and I think thats why everyone has been so frustrated with BB because when a guy plays bad and you don’t pull him off in hopes that something good happens it sends the wron message for the guys who are busting their tales and never get a shot. He is a tweener, I personally wish we could play him under the strikers, with limited Defensive responsibilities, that to me is his best position, and I believe by the time SA rolls around thats where he’ll be becuase one of these young guns are going to knock him out of the midfield, either way there is competition for that spot you can’t deny that. Just like we all thought Brian Ching was so safe, with Charlies emergence all because of chings injury, theres more competition for that spot, its the same scenario. and all of us should be happy about it cause at least we are talking about options instead of wishing we has some.

  9. Does anyone else see a striking resemblence between Stuart Holden and Frank Lampard? I think they both play the same exact way. Holden has become a more centrally oriented player and I think it’s brought out the best in him. I was somewhat surprised to hear that Hodgeson had his eye on Brek Shea the other day. Not so much that I felt Shea had a bad U-20 tournament, but that Holden had earned a look from overseas more. He fits the style of play, he’s played there before, and Fulham has had success with American players, especially ones with the leadership qualities that Holden possesses, i.e., Brian McBride. If not Fulham then some other club maybe even a League One club. I just feel he would develop better overseas.

  10. I would take Andy Johnson over either Davies or Altidore (at this stage in their careers). He’s really fast, and he can hold up the ball. Plus he’s pretty good in the air.

    I’m basing this on when he was with Everton as I haven’t seen much of him with Fulham, but I’d be quite happy if he could play for the US.

  11. alex- I believe that our starting 11 could probably play for Fulham. But whether they could keep it over the course of a season is unknown. Fulham plays every game with 11 EPL starters and 3 more on the bench. The USMNT can’t say that. So yes, Fulham’s overall talent level is better or perhaps I should say more proven and more consistent. They get to play together a lot more than the US does so they have a chance to develop a greater level of teamwork than the US ever will. And if you don’t think that is real important, I don’t know what else to tell you. Put it this way, best of seven, Fulham wins the series.

    It’s not Dempsey’s fault that he has no competition on the USMNT. Like I said, he is a “tweener” not exactly a forward and not exactly a midfielder. Holden is a pure midfielder. As I said he mostly reminds me of a young David Beckham. His best days are ahead of him but I don’t see him doing the same thing that Dempsey does; nor do I see anyone coming up who fits that mode. Dempsey has a talent for producing in the clutch; if I were the coach I would always find a place for such a player, as long as he keeps producing. He has not looked great lately (neither has the whole team) but nevertheless he still has been very productive this last year, with very little serious competition for his place so I don’t see your theory holding much water.

    Guys like him are inherently insecure and driven to prove themselves. He is still far from secure at Fulham.

  12. @ Jimmy Greaves you actually think Fulham have better players then our national team? Really? Who do you see Andy Johnson replacing on our team? Pantsil? Gera? REALLY? Clints difference is that Fulham pays his bills, USMNT is a bonus check. Thats the difference, when he wanted to break in the squad in 06 he worked his ass off, in 07 when Bob was subbing him off all the time, he worked his ass off to stay on the field the full 90. When Fulham weren’t playing him, he worked his ass off with the Nats and Fulham to get his spot back. Clint needs competition, he’s a guy who works better when he”s got something to prove, before this game I think that he thouht the Confed. Cup spoke enough for him, Bronze ball, a new fulham contract he was the F’n Man on this team probably the highest paid player and he probably thought he didn’t have to put in the work, this game changes everything, if holden, torres or benny plays with confidence and proves they can be valuable, then we’ll start to see the old clint, until then it will be more coasting.

  13. 59Telecaster,

    Good point. The chances Dempsey takes are fine with me (cause he’s one of the top attackers in CONCACAF) if he’s in the opponent’s third but the little tricks he tries and often fails (see T&T) screw up our possession when he’s a midfielder. Demps would be free to try all his crafty moves and take all the chances he wants up top and not leave our defense/right wing exposed. And I like our mix at midfield even with Clint up top especially when Edu recovers and if Jones makes it back in time.

  14. He deserves a chance. He has a great attitude on and off the field. His shot is an absolute rocket & his set pieces are great. And.. WOW, he deserves more than 34,000 a year!

  15. Speekeasy and Texas,

    I totally agree that Dempsey should be playing up top. The stats that were pointed out concerning his goals were mostly achieved when moved up to forward. As a halfback for the Nats, he has virtually no assists, does not cross the ball particularly well, and has a tendency for inexplicable mentals lapses where he turns the ball over in unbelievably dangerous places. He seems to play halfback for the US more like he wants to be a forward where he is taking chances that are great to do in the other teams third, regardless of where he is on the field. These mostly equate to giving up possession unneccesarily when the don’t succeed, and when they do, the don’t lead to scoring opportunities being so far from the opponents goal. Having said that, he clearly has a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net and he puts himself in good positions to score in front of the goal which is why he gets the numerous chances he does. The point about having a dangerous forward sub available is well made and would create great competition. Look at what Mexico did to the US in the Gold Cup final; they let the US tire themselves in the first half and put in fresh attacking legs in the second half and destroyed the US. One disclaimer – Clint Dempsey is better than me at every single position on the soccer field, but I still would like to see him playing at forward so that Fielhaber, Bradley, Torres, Holden, Clark, Donovan all get playing time in the midfield.

  16. Ok, seems like I was NEARLY alone on my blah feelings about Holden’s game. Damn, he DOES deserve a better contract though.

    Funny but Dempsey is always in good defensive position when he plays for Fulham and STILL manages to be involved in the attack. It must be a subtlety of formation or the roles of players around him. But the big knock on him with the USMNT is his defense and the reason he starts for Fulham is because of his two-way play.

    Well, for tomorrow, Go Stuey.


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