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Holden making progress in his return from injury


photo by Joe Toth/


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."


  1. Agreed on all above but do you really think Edu would start above Holden. I mean Bradley, Dempsey and Howard are the only players marked in stone when you are making the line up and Jones might be a close fourth if he is on his game(and because Klinsi loves him!!!). Don’t get me wrong he is very technical, physically a machine and does a lot of dirty work…so it is easy to see why Klinsi loves him.

    After that the lineup is a crap shoot based on form and availability. When Edu is at his best he can be fantastic but his passing is terrible. It is mostly negative, passes back more then forward(I would love to see what percentage of completed passes actually go lateral or forward.) He is slow in his thinking and often gets caught in possession but thankfully he has the wheels to recover(most times anyway). He is an offensive liability.

    Holden,(when healthy) is a bigger upgrade offensively and only a slight downgrade defensively.

    But yes all this means nothing if Holden can’t get and stay healthy.

  2. The roster for Barcelona/Spain is loaded with “little guys”. Trying to get physical with them deos not work that well.

    As for the wings being a haven from hard tackles, I notice Neymar was out on the left wing when Jones performed has “play more nasty,send a message” tackle on him.

    And that infamous Mullan tackle? If memory serves me it was out on the wing as well.

  3. Stu’s fans need to realise that gettting back to the Premiership is not that easy. Holden’s best chance at the EPL may be to play so well that someone picks him up in the January transfer window.

    If Stu tears up the Championship with Bolton, I’m sure JK will take notice.

    And that will be a good thing but the competition for places is likely to only get tougher.

    MB90’s impending transfer means he will have to step up his game. The same goes for Mo Edu.

    And Jones is already at a Champion’s league club. This upcoming WC represents his last shot at major international honors.

    So Holden will face some very serious competition to get back. Which is a good thing for the US.

  4. Freddy Adu and Morris Edu are 2 diff ppl. I would like to see

    Dempsey Altidore
    Donavan. Holden. F. Adu.
    Johnson/Lijaih. Boca. Goodson Dolo/Johnson

  5. GW…not sure that Klinsi cares were Holden is playing…just that he is playing well and consistently without being hurt. Holden is the type of player that Klinsi wants on his team. He has said as much, in interviews, when he first took over the team. Unfortunately timing is everything.

  6. GW I couldn’t agree with you more. O’Brien had accomplished quite a bit prior to the 2002 World Cup. Being the first American to go through the Ajax youth academy system(age 14), got a professional contract at 17, eventually earning a starting spot on the senior team then the coming out party at the 2002 world cup. Having said that Claudio Reyna was named to the 2002 World Cup all tournament team.

    My comparison of the two was that they possess the complete package…not that they are the same player. O’Brien had a level of accomplishment but he would be the standard for all field players to be measured by, if injury hadn’t cut his career short. Up until this past year Donovan was the measuring stick but Dempsey forced himself into and took over the conversation as the best field player.

    They are not the same player but if Holden were completely healthy I am not sure Donovan would start(based on recent form).

    Only time will tell if Holden can rehabilitate what is left of his career, after injury interrupted what was such a promising start.

  7. If Stu leads Bolton back to the Premiership, they would get promoted in May, 2013.

    Which means his first games for them in the Premiership would be in August of 2013. That season would end in May 2014, one month before the World Cup.

    So unless he gets transferred in the January (2013) window, Stu will most likely have to impress JK with his play in the Championship.

  8. O’Brien was a far more accomplished and versatile player than Holden. He won medals with Ajax and had a stellar 2002 World Cup.

    Holden has never done anything to remotely compare with that. Yes, I know about the injuries but at some point, you judge players by what they actually have done. In the real world.

    Injuries and all O’Brien managed to pack a lot more production into his years than Stu ever did or has yet to do.

    Donovan has said of O’Brien that he was the best American soccer player he had ever played with. And he said this having played with Reyna and McBride.

  9. “splitting hairs”?

    etj2 said Holden had his leg broken twice.

    Whatever Evans did to Holden he did not break his leg and more to the point,while you don’t wish it on anyone, it might have been better for Stu if he had.

    Knee ligament damage can be very tough to rehab.

    Regardless, whether he is injury prone, just unlucky or is actively being targeted by the De Jongs and Mullans of the soccer world because of his hair, what difference does it make?

    The end result is the same, Stu unavailable.

    When you miss as many important games in the prime of your career as consistently as Stu has then yeah, the guys who make decisions about which players to buy start to wonder about you. And they should.

  10. yea JJ is the only guy with the range and stamina to be the lone holding mid and bradley and stu need to be involved above him to spray it to our front three. It’s looking good, but of course you have to worry about the back line.

  11. I almost completely agree with you Mat. He is not John O’Brien…Zak Whitbread is a better comparison there(not the same talent level though). Holden is like O’Brien in that they have/had the same potential to be be the best American field players…ever. Technically there is no match to their complete set of skills…Donoavan might be faster, Dempsey is stronger and Reyna might be neater with the ball but Stu and John were/are the complete packages.

    I just wish Holden would not put himself into dangerous position but as he says “that is my game…do what needs to be done, throw myself at the ball and play hard”

  12. Sounds fine in theory, but not particularly with Adu as a deep holding midfielder. I agree that Gomez would do just fine instead of Altidore there.

  13. Thank god he has two years before World Cup 2014, hopefully he brings Bolton back to the Premierships this year. At this point that is the best any supporter of the USMNT can hope for.

  14. How does not trying altidore and bradley at starter sound ?


  15. You’re splitting hairs here… the “knee ligament rupture” was a direct result of his knee hitting Jonny Evans’ spikes. The open wound needed like 20 stitches IIRC.

    Agree with you on other points though. It’s a shame that one of the USMNT’s most promising players of the last and present WC cycles has had the most setbacks.

  16. “Holden picks up knocks infrequently”

    Maybe, but he gets bad ones and has very bad timing with his knocks.

    His broken leg effectively ruined his World Cup. His initial knee injury came at a very bad time for Bolton. He has missed something like 86 out of a possible 114 games for Bolton.

    His subsequent rehab setback probably helped get Bolton get relegated and effectively kept him from getting integrated with JK’s USMNT squad.

    And unless he has an excellent comeback and no other problems it has made his participation in the 2014 WC squad, if we get there, questionable.

    And he isn’t getting any younger. So he’s going to need all the the luck he can get just to save his pro career first and then after that his USMNT career.

  17. I’m pretty sure that during his purple patch with Bolton he led the team in tackles. So you would be adding another DM to the mix.

    As for using him as a wing, Holden may have played there for Houston but his strongest tendency is to go inside and look for the ball. He’s was not really quick enough to be a true winger and given his injuries is likely to be even less so.

    That is unless you use him as a Beckham type right winger. He has a good enough cross so he could do that though one hopes he is more like Beckham and less like Bentley. While Holden is excellent with the ball, he’s not in Beckham’s class. I’m not sure that would fit in with JK’s planned style.

  18. life threatening/ability to run threatening injuries are pretty different from what Holden has experienced, so I would say the Davies-Holden comparison is wrong. I’d probably start Bradley ahead of Jones in your lineup above btw.

  19. One broken leg.

    Then one knee ligament rupture, the rehabilation of which had to be extended due to previously undiscovered damage.

    Regardless of the reasons, these were major career – threatening injuries.

    It remians to be seen if he will recover his previous fitness and form. Note how long it took Gooch to get back to good form for Sporting.

  20. The pro-body comment is dumb, but players who do have major injuries often become injury prone afterwards- so thats possible. However, I don’t think we should call both of these injuries just “unlucky”- imho Holden was naive in how he went into a slide tackle against Johnny Evans that resulted in his last injury. Next time, if he’s going to go in for a 50-50 ball in that situation, i hope he knows to go studs up with the full force of his body behind him- better to injury the other guy than himself. I do think the tackle by DeJong was totally inappropriate and Holden did nothing wrong in that situation. But, savy players will play differently and protect themselves more when they’re sharing the midfield with the likes of DeJong.

  21. If he’s not back yet I doubt he’ll be back soon he seems to be on the Charlie Davies comeback trail ( for those who believe he will be back) and if he gets back he’s on the JOB fragility pills.

    If you want coulda woulda shoulda lineups

    JOB Subotic Boca Chandler

  22. Ya…that was the same issue with Nancy Kerrigan…some people thought she had great talent, but she just didnt have an “Olympian-body” so her knee kind of gave out too easily when the big dude whacked her with the club in the back of the leg.

  23. +1. Holden picks up knocks infrequently, plus he has some of the best lungs in English football. He’s got an excellent pro body. Let’s not get that confused with sheer bad luck.

  24. With how long he’s been out, he has to overcome the injury before we can even really meaningfully talk Team USA shop about him. It’s kind of like when Gonzo fans want to plug him right into the starting USA defense. You want to ask, you know how knee injuries work, have you ever had one, etc.

    Particularly with a CM glut, Dempsey up top, and players like Shea struggling wide, I’m surprised no one’s discussing Holden as a wing. He’s sharper than the younger players and he can hit a cross dating back to the first Dynamo days when he platooned with Mullan wide. Heck that’s how he was used in South Africa. How quickly people forget, and it might protect him from central midfield tackling carnage.

    Now, I don’t buy slighter built players can’t handle the load, but I do buy that there is a history of US players like Torres who have had to fight through injuries, and some like DmB and Holden who have seen their trajectories slide as they get hurt over and over. I’d say it has to do with the cynical strategy of tackling quick small players hard when you have the chance more than it reflects inherent weakness.
    I know when I played club ball against a small but successful future MLSer in youth play, half my strategy was to put him on his butt with a shoulder charge whenever I got the chance. Before people criticize, he earned HS and college awards but never at my expense, I got him tossed from a game from frustration. So to the extent people are suggesting small players get hurt is entirely in our imagination, I guess it’s just the thought never occurred to you to tackle the little guy hard before he had the chance to start dancing and making you look silly…

  25. I’d actually prefer Edu to Jones in the destroyer role, or at least Edu as a frequent alternate for Jones. GermanyJ ain’t getting younger and Edu does have more upside at this point, especially if he can finally get to another club in a proper league.

  26. Finally, some kind of update on Holden. I’ve been waiting and waiting. I wish he was further along in his recovery though. It’s hard to imagine him being available for his club when the season starts in a little over a month if he’s just barely started running outside.

  27. –Dempsey-Altidore-Donovan–

    its all silly details, but ya i know what you mean. Bradley is more than a #6 and allowing Jones to move sideline to sideline in the destroyer role would be interesting.

    Hopefully Stu returns to full health and we can test this line up in the HEX!

  28. This has to be one of the most uneducated comments ever posted on SBI. And that’s saying a lot.

  29. No, Holden wont lose his chances playing in the Championship. Klinsmann knows we cant have two DMs in a 4-3-3 and he’s called up 2nd division guys before, heck he called Boyd from a 4th division team. Plus, Championship is better than MLS.

  30. Are you serious? This isn’t like John O’Brien (victim of constant random injuries like pulled hamstring, etc.) or Owen Hargreaves (persistent non-contact knee problems.) His two major injuries were a broken leg caused by a bad tackle, and a shredded knee caused by a bad tackle. He is not frail, he’s just been incredibly unlucky. It’s possible these injuries will make him too frail in the future, but his current status is NOT because he doesn’t have a “pro” body.

  31. You do realize that opponents broke his leg….twice… right? He is not suffering from injuries received via lack of fitness or because he doesn’t have a “pro-body”

  32. Some guys just don’t have pro-body’s and can’t handle the heavy load of day to day play at the higher levels….Holden is still a decent player but has become very unreliable due to constant injuries. Now playing the second level of england he could certainly slip completely off JK’s radar.

  33. Looks good but I would move Bradley up with Holden in a 4-3-3 with only Jones sitting behind the two. I hate a 4-3-3 with two DMs/destroyers.

  34. “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.”

    how does this sound?



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