USMNT Daily Update: Holden on the comeback trail, but patience remains key


Stuart Holden resumed full training with Bolton on Thursday, a major step in his return from a knee injury that has cost him most of the past year and a half. Despite the fact that he hasn’t worn a U.S. national team uniform in more than two years, U.S. fans still clamor for his return every time there is some hint of a chance he will begin playing again.

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman was quick to try and calm expectations about just how close he is to returning to the field.

“He is training with us on every second day. He is looking nice and fit and his sharpness will come,” Freedman said of Holden. “He is such an enthusiastic lad and he is great to have around. I have tried to encourage Stuart to get around the place which is good for us.

“But we are still a couple months away from seeing Stuart, let’s not kid ourselves, but we are looking forward to that.”

Holden’s path to recovery has been a long and frustrating one for him. He has been forced to watch from the sidelines as Bolton faced relegation and his former manager, Owen Coyle, lost his job. Holden has also been forced to watch as new faces emerged on the national team and his old coach, Bob Bradley, was replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann.

So much has changed since Holden last played for the United States, and even for Bolton. He has to still recover full fitness, and test out his surgically-repaired knee. As Freedman pointed out, Holden is probably still some months from being a regular, and even then it would be premature to start talking about the national team.

If you want to think about Holden and the national team, think about this summer, when the U.S. will have both qualifiers and the Gold Cup. Six months is plenty of time for Holden to work his way back, re-establish himself for Bolton, and regain the form that once made him one of the top midfielders in the English Premier League.

As eager as you may be to see him back on the U.S. team, you need to think about what the past three years have been like for him. The two major injuries, and the more recent setback that cost him all of 2012. Holden has been through a lot, but continues to show the kind of confidence and good nature that makes him an inspiration.

It’s easy to see why people are desperate to see him in a U.S. uniform again, but patience is key. Root for his return to Bolton, and let him get settled again for a good while before starting the “Klinsmann call up Holden” campaign.

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68 Responses to USMNT Daily Update: Holden on the comeback trail, but patience remains key

  1. Ramon says:

    So are we looking at May or June timeframe for his return to the national team? That is if he doesn’t have any setbacks.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I think the thrust of the article is the opposite, don’t make any plans and just see what eventually happens. If you have to throw a number on it, maybe summer. But the reality is maybe he comes back or maybe it’s John O’Brien so I think you just have to see how he holds up.

      • PD says:

        I think that if he takes his time, maybe even missing the hex but getting regular club time, we’ll see him more relevant for Brasil than if he hurries back.

      • Ramon says:

        And here I was thinking I’m being patient by waiting six months. I thought maybe once the Premier League season is over he would get called into camp to see where he is. Holden is real game changer, unlike Jermaine Jones.

        • kb says:

          Jones is a game changer! All those cards will eventually leave us with 10 men on the field. Can’t wait for Holden’s return to form.

    • Josh D says:

      I think it’s “The best you can hope for is a Gold Cup roster spot.”

      Which I think is for the best. The Gold Cup will be competitive, but it won’t be the full national team and the team is only playing for pride so the pressure won’t be on. Let him get through that and have a good, injury-free preseason, then start harassing Klinsi for not including him.

      • Ramon says:

        I’m not sure why you mentioned harassing Klinsman. My intentions were to see the overall opinion concerning the possible return of Holden to the national team from people who read this blog. I was thinking if all goes well 5-6 months, but after reading what others were saying I would say 8 months to 10 months at a very minimum.

  2. swoopy says:

    Well. Congrats to him. His positive spirit and humor is incredible.

    I, on the other hand, will hate Nigel de Jong for the rest of time.

    • Eric says:

      He came back from the Nigel de Jong tackle fine. It was the Johnny Evans tackle that’s kept him out for so long. He’s the one you should be hating.

      • away goals says:

        I’m perfectly content hating the pair of them.

      • vik says:

        For me, De Jong’s tackle was the more malicious, high on the leg and after Holden was already going down. It was also an early world cup warmup game, so both teams knew everyone playing was avoiding injuries so they could play in the WC. So it was kind of understood that no dangerous fouls/tackles should happen. The guy also never apologized despite seeing Holden several times after the fact.

        Evans was a bad tackle too, but he saw the replay and apologized and all that. I know it’s their job, but having some decency is nice from my point of view. Evan’s tackle also seemed to be more to do with a poor pass and Holden taking an awkward angle to slide for it. Evans came through too strong, but he wasn’t wrong to go for it.

  3. Paul says:

    He should be brought to camps just to practice and be around the team. Everything I hear about him involves his great character and how he’s a prankster and jokester. I see a bunch of rigid hard nosed individual. His personality could help release some tension in the group. Again, not an official call up, just bring him in to practice and be around the team. I recall someone was brought in that way a few January’s ago.

    • bryan says:

      well since January isn’t an official camp, that won’t happen. and i think it’s more important that he remain with Bolton and work on his recovery then fly out to Honduras in February. he needs to remain with Bolton, it’s that simple. IMO

    • Josh D says:

      Sure and let’s bring Davies too!

      There’s no point in having him fly all the way to LA to just walk around. Keep him at Bolton with his trainers and doctors, and the team who’ll still be playing.

    • GW says:

      Yes bring him in as a mascot.

      I’m sure he’ll love that. Never mind missing rehab time and getting re aquainted with his day job.

  4. Nate Dollars says:


    • steveo says:


      • KKS says:

        All joking aside, I’m still of the opinion that Stuart Holden’s 2010-2011 was the finest season ever by an American abroad. He was, then, every bit as good for Bolton Wanderers as Jermaine Jones now is for Schalke.

      • Pete says:

        Why all caps when you write this? We can read it just the same when you use regular type.
        Just sayin’.

  5. Spencer says:

    Exciting time for him, hopefully by February he may be able to be back with the first team. It is good to keep the expectations low though because we aren’t sure how his body is going to respond

  6. az says:

    One of my favorite players! I hope they stay cautious. He does not need another injury setback!

  7. THomas says:

    Where does he play though? I think the biggest misconception about him is that he’s a ‘playmaker’ when he’s really best suited to play where Bradley does as the #8. So getting him back isn’t going to change much other than giving us more depth.

    • bryan says:

      correct, he seemed to play more of a #8 role. him, bradley, jones, and kljestan (according to JK). his return could allow us to play jones as a #6 again though. i still think williams should be the man though.

      i believe Corona is the only true “playmaker” we currently have who is involved with the US team.

      • Riggity says:

        Yeah cuz Corona has done sooo much playmaking for the USMNT…deuce is our playmaker. I’d love to one day agree with you but I think we should watch him play a couple matches before we dub him as our only playmaker in our player pool.

    • Bobb says:

      Klinsmann plays with three defensive midfielders. We may not like it, but those are the facts.
      So instead of Bradley and Jones with 1 of Williams/Edu/Beckerman, we will have Bradley and Jones with 1 of Williams/Holden.

      • Shaggie96 says:

        He plays three defensive mids because they’re the best center mids he has. If Holden comes back as good as he was before it should be Jones at holding mid and Bradley and Holden playing ahead of him in a 4-3-3 or the 4-4-2 diamond. We don’t have a “playmaker” at the moment, but Holden and Bradley can make things happen and keep things solid in the middle.

    • Thebumswillalwayslose says:

      I do agree with you that he’s much more a #8 than a #10, but I think he does give us more than just a depth option, hinging on his ability to come back and play at the level he was prior to the Johnny Evans tackle. IF he gets back to that stage (and that’s a big if), I think he can fill the role that Jermaine Jones currently occupies, so it would look like this:
      — MB – Holden–

      He’s strong enough defensively that while he’s not on the same level as JJ, you don’t lose all of the bite that you get with Jones, but I think he’s also better and more versatile going forward. Like you said, he’s certainly not the out and out #10 that some people seem to think he is or would like to see Klinsi deploy, but at his best he’s as good a combination of offensive ability and defensive presence as we have, save MB who’s clearly on a level all his own at this point.

      • THomas says:

        Now that you’ve all helped me think about it, our 4-3-3 with the three central midfielders and fullbacks used for width, that MB-Holden and Williams triangle could be quite nice.

      • Josh D says:

        I think it’s more of a Bradley, Holden, Jones midfield. All three have bite and passing, as well as, shooting. None are creative in the traditional sense, but it’d be more offensive.

        I think further down the road, we start looking at Mix and Corona to fill the creative hole.

        • Shaggie96 says:

          +1. Jones is better than Williams by quite a bit at this point. As long as his level of play continues where it is Jones will be starting in Brazil. I just hope it’s in a holding role (although I couldn’t help but be impressed with his play wide left against Russia).

  8. Darwin says:

    In other news, Alejandro Bedoya just scored against Twente in today’s Europa league match.

  9. gtv says:

    Deuce with an assist for Spurs, according to ESPN.

  10. Adam says:

    Dempsey definitely seems to be finding his role with Tottenham over the past few games. Looking much more comfortable.

  11. Adam says:


  12. ed - houston says:

    i don’t know, i don’t think he will ever be at the same level as before. hopefully i am wrong and hopefully no more setbacks.

  13. DanO says:

    Does anyone know what Holden’s specific knee injuries were? I’m a sports fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon, and from the information I’ve read and the few videos that US Soccer released, it is very confusing as to what he may have done. I understand he had two separate operations, but what for and what operation? If anyone has any good info, please share.

    • malkin says:

      After he was (apparently) fully healed from the ACL injury caused by the tackle, he came back for 1 game (and played the full 90 minutes), but then went in for a routine procedure that apparently revealed cartilage damage.

      • Josh D says:

        Key point learned by Bolton: Don’t play someone 90 minutes after being out for months.

      • DanO says:

        I don’t think the first injury was an ACL. It was reported to be “cartilage damage” initially. US Soccer put out a rehab video where he was non weight bearing several weeks post operatively, which would be very unconventional for an ACL reconstruction. Initial reports also mentioned he did not have a fracture, which would rule out one reason to be non-weight bearing. My best guess is he had a traumatic cartilage lesion (i.e. a large divot in the cartilage shaped like Jonny Evans’ stud). The initial procedure to address the cartilage defect probably didn’t take (OATS?). When they went for the second look, it either needed to be revised or another option was chosen. Again, this is a guess.

    • Shane says:

      The Johnny Evans cleat into his knee caused a supposedly rare injury – a break at the end of his femur. After rehab he returned to play for Bolton, played 90 minutes, was MOM, but the next day he couldnt walk. So the doctors decided to remove the screw in his knee from the original surgery. When they did that they found additional damage to the broken leg which was repaired using micro-fracture surgery. He has been recovering from that ever since. That is the most detail I have ever been able to find. I’m pretty sure Bo Jackson had micro-fracture surgery and he never recovered from it. I’m not holding out any hopes for Holden, no pun intended.

      • DanO says:

        Bo Jackson did not have microfracture. He suffered a femoral neck fracture and eventually had a hip replacement.

        From what Shane describes, Stu either had a fracture of a femoral condyle, or an osteochondral fracture (my bet would be the latter). They probably tried to fix the initial fragment of cartilage and bone with a few screws. It is not routine to remove those screws, but they probably felt it necessary after his pain flared. When they removed the screws, they probably then found that the fragment was not healed, removed it, and performed the microfracture. Microfracture has good results in the short run (<5 years), but an unproven track record in the long run. Some docs would consider a more involved cartilage restoration procedure such as OATS, ACI, or osteochondral allograft, all of which have a long recovery period, and an unproven track record for high level long term sports participation.

        I would guess that Stu would be able to return, probably play a few years near his peak form, likely need another minor knee operation or two, and his career will probably be a little shorter than it otherwise would have been. I hope he proves me wrong.

      • Sam says:

        Many NBA players have had microfracture surgeries and come back just fine. Amare Stoudemire had it in 2005, then returned to being one of the best players in the league for a few years. Granted he ended up having multiple of these surgeries and is now a shell of himself, but it is possible to come back at a high level.

    • skyman says:

      If what Shane says below is true, can you comment on any possible long term prognosis?

  14. Matt C in Tampa says:

    Gold Cup matches will be a good time to test him out…along with some other “fringers”.

  15. BrianVT says:

    Just curious if anyone knows some of the details about this setback. Of course there was the DeJong leg-break, then the Evans slashing. But Holden had actually come back from the Evans injury, but only played less than a game before he was sidelined again with reported complications from the Evans injury. I’m just curious what those complications were, and how they had been missed, or not affected him during his training leading up to his brief half-game comeback?

  16. Dan M says:

    First of all, Ives is smart, but he’s not a doctor, so don’t ask him (or anyone in this forum) for any better estimate than Ives has already given. Many players never come back from this type of thing. 20 years ago, nobody came back from this type of successive and catastrophic injury. Still, I would love to see him back as soon as is possible. God bless the lad, even though he’s of Scottish extraction!

  17. Juan says:

    I wish him well on his recovery but I’m not sure he fits anywhere in JKs system. Provided he is able to recover fully, who would he displace?

    • Lost in Space says:

      As others have hinted at above IF Holden returns to the form he had with Bolten, prior to the Evans tackel, I think he’d be used in a formation like this….

      When healthy and on form this has the potential to be our strongest formation.
      Sub in Chandler/Lichaj for Dolo if he starts to have issues. Still need to find a replacement for Boca and Potentially Donovan, but otherwise would love to see this as our Starting 11 in the Hex.

      • broadsthooligans says:

        Chandler for Donovan and Licahj for Dolo, if needed for both, would be my choice. From what I’ve see, I prefer Chandler on the wings than as a fullback anyway.

  18. beto says:

    everyone is crazy calling him back to the USNT so quickly. How about he starts playing in the championship first then if he is doing well we will cross that bridge. I would realistically hope for a gold cup or summer qualifiers but its pointless until we actually see him play soccer!

    Best of luck and glad to see that the recovery is progressing!

  19. fischy says:

    Cap him.

  20. Alex says:

    Starting lineup when Holden is back at full strength
    F.Johnson Zusi
    Bradley Holden
    Chandler Dolo
    Boca Cameron

    Any thoughts?