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USMNT Daily Update: As Holden takes important step in comeback, we can start thinking about the USMNT possibilities


Stuart Holden has spent almost two years away from the playing field for Bolton. With the exception of training sessions and couple of recent cup appearances, Holden has spend much of his time rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee and enduring the second lengthy absence of his career.

Holden finally broke through on Tuesday, coming on as a substitute early in the first half of Bolton’s league match against Peterborough. He showed some expected rust according to media reports, but held firm on the right side of Bolton’s midfield and helped the Trotters see out a hard-fought 1-0 victory.

The match marked the first significant first-team playing time for Holden since the fateful tackle from Johnny Evans that tore up Holden’s knee and kicked off an almost two-year ordeal.

Holden battled through with his trademark resolve, and has made it all the way back, and now he has to keep getting minutes and working the rust off to eventually regain the form that once had him being regarded as one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his return was the fact he was deployed on the right flank in a 4-4-2 diamond midfield. He is no stranger to playing on the right, and showed some real quality there for the U.S. national team in years past, and it just might be a better spot for him going forward.

Why? It might seem strange to want to move Holden away from central midfield, where he thrived in the EPL, but the center of the field is also where he has suffered two horrific injuries from bad challenges, and where his fearless play can be punished as much as it is rewarded.

Whether or not he winds up staying wide, or returning to central midfield for Bolton, there is certainly a reason to consider the possibilities when it comes to Holden and the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Let’s start by pointing out that after almost two years away, Holden will need a few minutes before he can even think of a National Team call-up. Having said that, there is no reason to believe Jurgen Klinsmann won’t bring him in this summer if he is healthy, and if he has been able to compile a good amount of playing time to help regain his sharpness.

If Holden is healthy and sharp, Klinsmann would have to consider Holden as a right wing option because the fact is he has very few quality wing options and an abundance of central midfield candidates. As much as some U.S. fans would love to see a Holden-Michael Bradley tandem in central midfield, it is safe to say Jermaine Jones isn’t going anywhere for a while.

So why not deploy Holden on the right, where his tenacity and quality service can be an asset?

It will be something to watch come this summer. For now, we should think about the possibilities and try to practice patience with Holden’s recovery. He isn’t completely out of the woods yet, but Tuesday’s 66-minute appearance is enough to make talking about his national team future a worthwhile endeavor, and not just wishful thinking.


  1. Stu should be welcomed back with open arms to the next camp where he can be around the lads in limited exposure to physical work…any progress he makes during the international break is a bonus and working with the Nat’s PT team will give the US staff a better understanding of where he stands. Spending time with the coaches is also positive… This will no-doubt give him a new vision and expedite his return to form and get him back in the team (s) as a regular starter – and hopefully picking up on the promise of his tantalizing form of two years ago. Wondering if Johnny Evans is staying in touch?

  2. I agree with others, flank mid is a (knock on wood) safer place for him to get back into the side. Keeps him out of heavy traffic. I wouldn’t mind seeing him stay on the flank for Bolton all the way up to the WC.

  3. With Shea and Holden still not in match shape, would this set up work… 3 5 2

    Camerone, Bocanegra and Gonzalez in the back. Edu or Jones and Bradley Def mid, Johnson and Chandler on the wings up front. Dempsey attackin mid. Atidore, Gomez or Johnson as Forwards?

  4. I love Holden, I’m betting on him to get his form back. That’s an easy bet, actually, after his super human commitment to rehab.

    The 2014 campaign is shaping up to be a “no stars” type of team, I doubt anyone can show quality consistently enough to earn a permanent place, so I think the expectation should be set for offense by committee. I list the 6 that have the potential for the highest form in the pool below, but if I’m Klinsmann I set the pattern that all 3 subs will be used every game and to have 1 of those subs happen at half time and 1 at the 60 min. mark.

    Boyd and Gomez are first off the bench for the strikers, Edu and Jones for mids, maybe Zusi or Torres, and I have nothing extra to add to what’s been written about the back 4, other than I think Edu needs a place often and every once in a while it could be in the back.

    Jones drives me crazy, I admit, so not sure if I’m impartial about him. He needs to be constantly coached about composure, damn it, the US doesn’t need another player who plays in a way which encourages mediocre first touches or inaccurate passes.

    Players in this “1A” pool, no spot is secure, please step up and claim it, Brazil is beckoning.

    highest potential form top six:



    Shea – – – Donovan – – – – Holden

    – – – – – Bradley – – – – –

    —— back 4 ——

    — Keeper ( Guzan deserves a shot or two, Howard’s level has declined ever so slightly )

    Two additional points:

    Right around the ’08 Gold Cup and ’09 Confederations Cup the USMNT under B. Bradley often showed an organizational excellence that was already weaker by South Africa and has never reappeared since. If you look at the ’09 Confed Spain or Brazil games for example, there’s one amazing defensive play after another that happened because people were doing the right things as a group so often that it created an atmosphere where great tackles and blocks were possible (Brazil was unbelievable in that second half of the final, too good). I don’t think the defensive talent level is appreciably different than it was then, and it’s early enough in the cycle to get that form back. I’ll be evaluating Klinsmann partially based on if I see signs of that level. I would even bring back Bradley after game 5 in the Hex if the next 4 games are disastrous.

    Lastly I think Altidore’s performances improve with Donovan and Holden behind him. His touch, passing and striking ability are all excellent, but his current weaknesses in assertiveness and leadership are unfortunately magnified on a team where most members are not as talented as he is. It bears repeating that it would be a BIG help to the team if Altidore can reach a higher level for the Nats, he remains a tantalizing potential difference maker who has not peaked as a player, and it’s easy to suffer from expectation fatigue while assessing his future.

  5. I like the idea of putting him on the right side. He is a great player. It would be great to have him right now to filll in for Donovan! That tackle from Evans was reckless–Evans is dirty and really screwed Holden. What a late, stupid tackle.

  6. just hope he can keep getting PT and get his career back on track, whatever that means for the Nats

    Stu is a favorite for a looooooong time now. losing him, CD9 and Gooch right up the team’s spine in 2010 was big blow the team had to overcome

  7. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Holden.

    He had a pretty unique injury and has been off a long time. It may take another 6 months to regain his form, or he may never regain the form he was in prior to the injury. Long-term injuries do have a psychological effect on a player.

    I hope I am wrong, but we are just going to have to wait and see.

  8. I think Holden is the EXACT type of player we need in our midfield 3 to make JK’s preferred 4-3-3 work. Him and Bradley trading off tracking back and pushing forward with their relentless work rates and Jones hanging back to destroy counter attacks and protect the back line. Timmy and Johnson bombing forward for width and Dempsey, Altidore, Donovan finishing lethally.

    Look out Brazil! We’re coming to spoil your coronation!








  9. Do not get me wrong I think Holden and his come back is inspirational. However, this is a guy who has not played in two years. It is the bounceback and how soon he can recover after a game. I hope he can come back as he was poised to take over for Landon or supplement him, but I think he needs to finish this season to see how his body responds. I think we should be talking more about Castillo and Corona for the Xolos. I can see those two in the lineup before Stu. The way Gil has played along with Villarreal in the U20s if the calender works out I would like to see those two before Holden in the Gold Cup.

  10. Umm. Please no. Holden is a CM. Not a winger. Reports from yesterday were that he was off the pace, and looked out of place in that role. Obviously that should be suspected from a player who hasn’t played in 2 years. Lets just let him get back and fit. I quite like the idea of him, jones and bradley as a center 3.

    • not accurate, he has played the flank often in his career, and played it well. the guy is tireless getting forward and tracking back, and he can serve a dangerous ball into the box

      • Correct. He has played outside. That doesn’t make him a winger. People jump on Klinsy for playing players out of their positions (Williams, Jones, Torres at LB, etc). The list keeps going. Holden was brought into Bolton to play CM. his passing range from deep, tactical awareness, and tenacity in the tackle make hit fit that role. Keep him there, not on the outside.

  11. Super psyched to see him back with the first team at Bolton. He’s one of the easiest guys to root for on the national team and I hope he avoids injury for the rest of his LIFE.

  12. Again, I love Stu, but this injury was significant and Klinsi will need a back-up on the roster specifically with Stu in mind if Stu makes the final cut. There is just no telling what little knock with cause the problems to resurface. That said, if he is the best option then he needs to be on the plane to Brazil.*

    * if we survive Concacaf.

    • If Stu stays healthy for the next 15 months there shouldn’t be too many concerns with the injury. Glad to see him back again. Hopefully he can get back to national team level, but we are still months away from being able to consider him. I’m very cautiously optimistic.

    • If stu can get his game back to national team level I’d love to see

      ——————Back 5




      3 very hard working center mids on patrol, Donovan and Dempsey playing free underneath Jozy, and outside backs overlapping. Also allows us plenty of flexibility as these players could easily be changed into 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 ect..

  13. This might be interesting…







    Is this our best or most attacking set-up?

    • It looks interesting, but I’d sub Mo Edu for either Cameron or Gonzalez. I’ll admit I’m basing that on Mo’s play for Borsapor, where it looks to me as he’s used as a distributor.I know he’s used a MF in Turkey, not as a CB, but.I haven’t seen either Cameron or Gonzalez being used that way for the Nats.

    • ———————Jozy———————–






      Probably not the best option because of our defensive lapses, but it would be awesome to see all of those players on the field.

    • Listing 12 men aside — after watching him on a weekly basis this season with Spurs, Dempsey really is a forward, not an attacking midfielder. He’s just not an incisive enough passer, or creative enough, to play in that “number 10” role and consistently deliver a good final ball. He’s been at his best in a 4-4-2, esp. paired with Defoe where he can focus on popping up in the right place for garbage goals and headers.

    • I was thinking more like this:


      Shea—-Beasley——-Feilhaber——Mix———-Donovan——-Gatt—–Zusi ———————Bradley————Holden———–Sacha——————–




      I’m really a big fan of the 2-6-4-3-7-5 formation. Very attacking, while still quite strong defensively.

  14. While being on the wing might make Holden less prone to injury, the US clearly lacks in offensive creativity. Holden’s passing ability is sublime, and I think we would be better with him in the center rather than out wide. He’s played out wide in the past and it is clear that he is much more effective as a center mid.

    • Stu is versatile, if he starts out wide he can interchange to the middle, but his service from the flank is a true weapon too and can provide some of the width we’re lacking

  15. ———————————–Donovan—————————





    • Fantastic. I’m with you in wanting LD at striker. He looked great there in a friendly vs. Brazil after WC2010. Believe the game was Omar Gonzalez’s 1st cap.

    • FTW!

      As Donovan gets older we should definitely limit the miles he will have to run per game. Even on his worst day he creates 3-5 solid chances for himself or others. Get him as close to the box as possible.

      Leave Jozy’s butt on the bench until he learns to score while wearing a US kit.

    • When healthy, at least for this year, I still like Cherundolo over Chandler. Chandler is still wet behind the ears internationally and it showed vs. Honduras.

    • I’d go with something more along the following (by the end of July):







      Subs: Jozy/Boyd, Gatt, Corona, Shea, Zusi, Jones/Edu/Williams, Castillo, Besler, Boca, Dolo, Guzan.

      Alternate Players for injuries: Lichaj, Parkhurst, Goodson, Pontius, E. Johnson, Torres, Brooks, S. Johnson, Hamid

    • Donovan and Dempsey as a forward pairing would be like the US version of a Lampard-Gerrard CM pairing. They’re too similar in what they do.

      • Well, what I mean by that is both of them operate more as a second striker, and play at their best when able to drift around in the space between a true number 9 and the midfield.

  16. Depending on his form and continued PT, I think the Gold Cup is a solid target.

    If he’s doing well and the US wide play doesn’t improve, the June WCQ matches might not be too unrealistic. Even if we’d like to see him in central midfield, better to have him on the pitch period than get nothing from the right side.

      • Jermaine Jones does not earn an inordinate amount of yellow cards for the Nats. Yes, he misses a match with another in WCQ. Why don’t you check and see just how many USMNT players are out with 1 more YC. Imagine playing at Mexico with no MB90.

        Jones had 2 consecutive Bundesliga seasons (1 half season w/ Blackburn) where he got a ridiculous amount of YCs. Guess what… he’s a tough tackling, ball-winning, defensive-minded midfielder. The bite he brings the USMNT is necessary and he’s one of the best players on the side right now. It’s just a fact. Jones himself is not in control of the US player pool, and he’s not a genie that can make a suitable attacking midfielder for him to partner with appear out of thin air.

        At the end of the day, the guy goes up against some of the best in the world on a regular basis, makes important plays, scores the occasional goal and has the occasion assist.

        Sometimes, you should argue with facts and not simply repeat everyone else’s uninformed opinions.

      • I don’t have the stats but I would bet Jones’ pass completion percentage is low. I’m surprised he’s been so successful in the Bundesliga because I just have not seen the quality with the USMNT. I’m hoping for a Holden return. We need some skill and poise in the central midfield

      • Maybe you should watch him play more and then you’ll probably understand what more informed people than you are saying.

      • I have watched every game he’s played with the US. He shows flashes, but Jermain Jones with the US and Jermain Jones with his club are not anywhere near the same quality. With the exception of an occasional flash of quality, he’s been pretty garbage for the US.

      • Maybe it is the quality of the teammates.

        Schalke is almost through to the quarter finals of the Champions league, so they are not garbage and Jones starts for them.

      • “The bite he brings the USMNT is necessary and he’s one of the best players on the side right now. It’s just a fact.” – Um, sir…. this is not a fact……at all. I can list about 10 others that are better. Jones is just a bull in a china shop, with no self control, nor ball control, nor service. Jurgen has a man crush on him it seems, and THAT is why he plays. He gets yellow cards not because; “he’s a tough tackling, ball-winning, defensive-minded midfielder.” he gets them because he doesnt think and has no control. If you believe Jones would be better than a fit Holden in midfield…whew…I really dont know what to tell you. You probably think Kyle Beckerman is awesome as well.

    • On the right side he’s going to have to compete against Zusi, Donovan, Gomez, Gatt, possibly Dempsey – I don’t think Holden can break through those players.

      “He is no stranger to playing on the right, and showed some real quality there for the U.S. national team in years past, and it just might be a better spot for him going forward.”

      For him perhaps. But for the US, we need him in CM. Our right winged options are set quite well. It’s a passing CM player we’re missing. He came in because of an injury which may explain why he was put out wide. He played through the middle during his other outings, if I recall correctly.

      I also don’t like the idea that we should move him away from his best position because he’s had two freak injuries. That’s the position he broke through on a PL team and made Best XI honors for his half season. Out wide, he’s serviceable, but nothing spectacular. Lee is also the better right winger, so competition may be harder.

      Out wide or through the middle, I’m just glad he’s getting playing time. Shake the rust off and we’ll happily see him this summer at the Gold Cup.

      • I would generally agree with you about Holden playing at CM, although if he were in form (and who knows if that will be ever) I’d put him ahead of all of those players at RM (except Donovan), even Dempsey. Deuce scores goals but doesn’t really provide the other qualities expected of wide players–service & defensive play.

        That said, surrounding a CM trio of healthy Holden, Bradley, Jones/Edu with 2 legit wingers (Shea, Donovan, Beasley, Gatt) and a forward (Altidore, Boyd) would be worth checking out.

      • 1) Donovan: Not with the team for now.

        2) Zusi: If Holden returns to pre-injury form, he is worlds ahead of Zusi.

        3) Dempsey: JK doesn’t want Dempsey out wide.

        4) Gatt: How on earth do you not see Holden playing ahead of Gatt?

        5) Gomez: Gomez is a striker, not a wide midfielder. If we want three forwards, then Gomez is your guy. If we want a wide mid, Holden.

        Donovan is the only player in the pool that is clearly ahead of Stu on the right side, (assuming Holden returns to form), and Donovan could be deployed on the left if Shea isn’t around.

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