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With latest injury ordeal behind him, Holden set to shine at Gold Cup

Stuart Holden USMNT practice (ISI)


PORTLAND, Ore.- While some are calling the United States Gold Cup roster a “B” squad, you won’t hear that term from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann or any of the players. For the 23 players that make up the squad, a standout Gold Cup can lead to bigger and brighter things.

No one knows that better than Stuart Holden, who parlayed a standout 2009 Gold Cup showing into a contract with a Premier League club and a spot on the 2010 World Cup roster.

However, a knee injury in March of 2011 derailed the 27-year-old’s once-skyrocketing career. From the time of the original injury to January of this year, Holden saw the field just once in a non-reserve match for his club, the Bolton Wanderers.

Since returning from injury earlier this year, the midfielder has made his way back into the U.S. radar. Holden saw his first action for the USMNT since 2010 in the squad’s 4-2 loss to Belgium on May 29.

More recently, Holden stood out in the U.S. team’s recent 6-0 win vs. Guatemala, a match that saw him earn SBI Man of the Match honors. Now Holden will look to ride the momentum of that strong showing into another standout Gold Cup showing.

“It is a big tournament for me, in terms of getting a few more games with the national team and showing Jurgen what I can do,” Holden said.

Holden is one of two European-based players (the other is Michael Parkhurst) to be on both June’s World Cup Qualifying roster and the one for the Gold Cup.¬†According to Klinsmann, the most important thing for Holden is to get on the field and play and train as much as he can.

“That was our plan. That’s why we brought him in the group that played the World Cup Qualifiers and we didn’t want him to go on vacation. We wanted him to go through this summer,” Klinsmann said. “And now he has the opportunity to put his stamp on this Gold Cup.”

His first major minutes came in Friday’s 6-0 victory over Guatemala in San Diego. Coming on at halftime, Holden had an assist, while also controlling the middle of the pitch. It was the most minutes Holden had played in a match under Klinsmann.

“For me personally, it was just to show Jurgen that I can play in the system and I can be a contributor on this team,” Holden said. “It’s more important how the team is playing and if I can be out there and contribute in positive ways and help us get results, then that is the main goal for me and the team as a unit.”

Holden’s quality play was not lost on Klinsmann.

“I think that performance against Guatemala in the second half, showed you that he can be very effective on the field and make a difference,” Klinsmann said.

The last six weeks has given Holden his first opportunity to impress Klinsmann in person, since he was hired as manager in the summer of 2011. And the more Holden has played, the more his play has been elevated, according to Klinsmann.

“I think it is great to see Stuart back in rhythm. It’s just great to see him back getting more and more confident and getting more settled. All he needs his games,” Klinsmann said.

When Holden gets onto the field, he will try to replicate his 2009 Gold Cup performance. Holden scored two goals in that tournament, on his way to being named to the all-tournament team.

If his showing against Guatemala is any indication, Holden could wind up having an even stronger showing in the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup.


  1. At the moment I see Donovan and Holden as super-subs or injury/card replacements for major tournaments. I think Donovan fits in where Dempsey plays, but I’m not sure he can still put in the defensive effort to fill in on the outside. Same for Holden… I think his best position is in the middle but I don’t think he replaced Jones or Bradley. I would be interested to see how a Bradley-Holden pairing would look, but I think that would force Bradley to change his game that has been so awesome lately. The presence of Jones allows Bradley much more freedom to roam up-top and without him I think the roles might reverse… Holden could roam more offensively and Bradley would be forced more defensive.

    With all that said I am excited to have such a deep bench in which you can bring in players that are not drop-off from the starters. Imagine Donovan and Holden coming in around the 70th minute when the other team’s legs are starting to feel a bit heavy. That would be terrifying for the other team and very exciting for the US!

    • I agree with you that we are suddenly deeper then we’ve been in a long time, and that is exciting. I can’t agree re: Donovan. I think he is unarguably the best player we’ve ever had but more importantly, arguably the best field player we have right now. He is a more complete offensive player than Dempsey in that he is a more creative play-maker and an equal, IMHO, as a scorer.

      Holden does create a pleasant dilemma re: Bradley-Jones/Holden. But again, I think he is the more complete player than JJones going both forward, play-making and scoring, as well as tackling. (He was leading the EPL in tackles at the time he got hurt, if memory serves.) Plus he doesn’t create the tension Jone’s does re: when is he going to commit a stupid/unnecessary foul and create scoring opportunities for the opponent or get thrown out of the game. I’m serious about that. His fouling is a real concern.

  2. Holden as a backup? Stuart Holden is the most tactical midfielder on the team and that includes Bradley who I love and who is the USMNT’s best player by a considerable margin. He’s outperformed everyone on the USMNT in Europe (though for a short stint). An in-form Stuart Holden is no bench player on this team. Diskerud shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as him. I like Jones, and if you want him as a defensive mid I’d still much rather have Holden providing service to Altidore on a wing than Zusi.

    The idea of a Bradley-Jones-Holden-Donovan-Dempsey-Altidore front six is extremely appealing

    • I don’t see how you can use such a small sample size, vs Guatemala no less, as a reason to move Holden ahead of Zusi on the USMNT depths chart. Zusi’s service to Altidore during the last qual’s and friendlies was outstanding. Why throw Holden in there based on that one performance? Until Stu has played as a starter during this Gold Cup AND a number of league games, IMO I don’t think we can have this conversation. However, I do like the idea of starting:

      Bradley-Jones-Zusi-Donovan-Dempsey-Altidore then switch Holden with Donovan and slide Donovan over to Zusi’s spot. Thoughts?

  3. Wow, Ives, you scared the living daylight out of me!!! I was scrolling down the home page quickly and caught “latest injury” and the picture of Stu…..Needlees to say, I think the entire soccer community wishes Stuart Holden the best for the rest of his career!!!

  4. I agree with many people here that we should withstand some judgement because it was a lower tier opponent, but there were certain plays that holden made that were sheer class and reminded me why I was so excited about him two years ago. Off the top of my head, the chip assist to donavon and the volley hockey assist on bedoyas final goal. Both of those plays displayed immense quality regardless of the opponent. I’ll wait until after the gold cup on whether I’d take him over jones, but at the moment I’d slot him as the CM/CAM and put bradley at CDM because he has played there often. Alternatively I think a 4-3-3 could work well with jones as the defensive anchor

    • I think that would actually be the best option because JJ is a great defensive midfielder as others have said and michael bradley is most definitely a “box-to-box midfielder”, but at this point i’m not sure whether Holden is capable of being a box-to-box midfielder, so the gold cup and Holdens next season could determine whether the USMNT should keep the 4-4-2 and have good depth with holden or run the 4-3-3 and have him starting. Dempsey and donavon would be great on the wings and altidore at CF would work well too…I know the 4-3-3 failed initially with klinssman but if donavon, dempsey, holden, bradley, and JJ are all in form than it could be more dangerous than the 4-4-2 we are currently running

      • Absolutely, I’d love to see that 3-3…. With FJ and Chandler (if he ever gets his act together for the Nats) speed coming up the wings from the back and the interchange possibilities between Donovan & Dempsey we could keep opposing teams pretty unbalanced…

  5. the holding midfield position is so key to any good team, but it doesn’t really get noticed by most people watching the game. all you have to do is look at what happens when a great holding midfielder leaves a team and a lesser player steps in. Anyone ever hear of claude makelele? JJ, while not makelele, is a bulldog that protects the CDs. Cameron seems to have the bite too, but as said above JJ is doing it week in week out for a CL team.

  6. I think you have to have someone at DM to help our backline so we can allow Bradley to flow. What Stu does add is depth in case of cards (Jones) and a wing option. Add Holden, Shea, Donovan to the group we have been sending out and you have to be pretty excited. Even if you don’t start any of them, your impact subs are lined up!

  7. I think people are dumping on J Jones too much here. I think his play has improved, witness his pass to Dempsey versus Honduras that led to that very nice goal. I think ultimately the best line up, assuming the players return to form, would be Donovan, Holden, Bradley and J Jones in the middle, move F Johnson back to left back, and push Dempsey up behind Altidore for a modified 4-4-2 with Dempsey playing as sort of a withdrawn forward. That would give the US a lot of offensive potential.

  8. I think all you have to say is what was said above. He plays the position for a cl team in a top league and has played there for a while. You get on good teams and stay on good teams because you are a top player. Money talks

  9. I totally agree with the JJ comments. He has a decent long ball but his work through the midfield is avg most of the time. Plus he doesn’t seem to have a good field relationship with Bradley. Even if he doesn’t find a spot in the first XI it would still be nice to have someone who could spell Bradley come tournament time.

      • Jermaine Jones is the hardest working player and definitelty covers the most ground in the defensive midfield. Also, part of the reason we have been playing well is because of the great relationship between Bradley and Jones and how they are pretty interchangeable

    • I think the best thing that Jones can do for the USMNT is become more strictly disciplined in his #6 role. Cameron showed how effective “playing the role” can be, and there have been many times when JJ has made choices that seemed to result in other players becoming less effective in thier own roles. That said, If he can do that, I stIll think he’s the ideal guy to line up next to Bradley. That said, knowing that Holden and Cameron can take the filed at a moment’s notice if either of those guys gets hurt or get into card trouble would be a great place to be depth wise, so I’m hoping that Holden can climb the depth chart and that Cameron gets a few more looks in that role to see if we can base his currently high stock on more than one game.

  10. Beyond the obvious…winning the tournament…I am hoping that there are a handful of players off this squad who will push for inclusion in the “A” Team. Players who can hopefully surplant some of the less consistent fringe players that JK has called up.
    IMO this is a chance for Holden and Diskerud to push for the 3rd & 4th CM spots (behind Bradley & Jones…replacing Beckerman & possibly Edu). Bedoya & Shea to make a case for Wing midfielders (replacing Davis), and for Donovan to reclaim a spot in the 23.
    It will also likely be the last chance for some of the players to hold onto a position in the “A” Teams 23…and even in the player pool. Wondo, Gooch & Parkhurst have to have good games or they will be cut from consideration once the GC ends. Castillo is going to get pressure to produce either as a LB or a LM. Same for Torres in Midfield…If they doesn’t perform they may drop off the top 23 for qualifiiers, but will likely still be pool players (injury cover).
    Time has come for the USNT to start narrowing down the player selections (top 30) for who will really contribute come the WC.

  11. Holden has great field vision and is a sharp passer. But let’s not get carried away! I will withhold judgement on his comeback play until he plays and “shines” against an opponent ranked higher than the US.

    Everybody looked good against the poor Guatemala “B” squad. And there is no doubt we will beat lowly Belize (ranked lower than Guatemala) and have our way with Cuba. If Holden shines in a 90 minute effort against the Ticos, Honduras and especially Mexico (if Mexico makes it that far) Then we can say he is back.

    But I’ll be more convinced that he can beat out the fine players we have already, if he “shines” against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now that would be impressive.

  12. Is it really so important to have a bruiser / extra defender like Jones or beckerman?it would seem to my untrained eye that two CMs that are superb on the ball like Bradley and holden would be a much more valuable pairing.

    • Great question, and I think the answer is yes, it is important against most high level teams. Think Paulinho, De Rossi, Schweinsteiger.
      Holden used to tackle hard, which is one of the reasons he was so good at Bolton before he was injured. The problem is that he’ll get injured if he plays like that again, so he’s going to have to depend on his quality on the ball, which is stellar.

      • I’ve seen so much more from Geoff Cameron and Stu Holden at center mid than I have from Jermaine Jones of late. If I were Klinsmann, I’d be looking very closely at those 2 when picking my starting XI come Brazil. Jones plays aggressive soccer (maybe too aggressive at times), but his ball skills and distribution are often weak.

      • You’ve seen more from Cameron and Holden from their relatively short cameos at CM? Jones plays the position for a pretty regular CL team in a top league. I know a lot of people on this board have a problem with Jones but I don’t get it.

        That being said I would like to see Holden have a great tourney and push for a starting role as well.

    • Really depends on your opponent and the quality you have at CB.
      Against weaker compitition having 2 skill players who can ping the ball around quickly is an advantage. One of the reasons Holden & Mixx look so good in the 2nd half. That said, either could be paired with Bradley…as he has shown the ability to be an inforcer if needed.
      IF you have 2 class CB’s with experience, skill, and speed you can also go with 2 more attack minded CM’s. Unfortunately at the moment the USNT doesn’t have that level of confidence & ability at CB. Gonzo & Besler could grow into it…but right now they are too inexperienced not to have extra cover in the form of a true # 6 when playing against WC quality teams (including Mexico, Costa Rica, & Honduras).

    • In each of Stu’s two critical injuries, it was not his tackling or play that was the problem. One was from an opposing player who made a mistake and came in too late (and apologized profusely), the other was from a player, Nigel de Jong, who is a known schmuck who does that kind of crap on a regular basis, see: and

    • Agreed, his burst of speed was impressive as was his change of direction. No hesitation from Stu. Loved to see that.

  13. Yes… but at this stage of the tournament, against this opponent, at this stage in his comeback, at this stage in Bolton’s preseason. Do you really play Holden more than 30 or 45 mins on a Turf field?

    Anyone (over30-which Holden’s knee is) who doesn’t admit the soreness they feel after a turf game compared to a grass game is kidding themselves.

    • I hate to agree because I think Stu certainly earned the opportunity to start. But just as an extra (and probably un-needed) precaution, it would be best if he comes on as a second half sub. He can start the other two games if he plays well again.

    • I agree too, I had an ACL on turf last year and I’m still not right and won’t play turf ever again. Sub him in second half.

      • Just tore my ACL on grass, while never having a problem with turf. Thems just the breaks, I guess.

  14. The phrase “With latest injury ordeal behind him, Holden set to shine” should be a macro on every American soccer writer’s computer.


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