By IVES GALARCEP
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.