At the start of 2010, the Scottish-born American midfielder seemingly had the soccer world in the palm of his hand. At 24, he’d completed another standout year for the Houston Dynamo and moved to Bolton Wanderers, then a club with Premier League-standing.
Holden appeared on the verge of breaking through with the U.S. National Team, playing a starring role at the 2009 Gold Cup, including this stoppage-time stunner vs. Haiti.
Then, as quickly as it came, it went — as the Brits say — pear shaped.
First came a broken leg in a March 2010 friendly with the Netherlands at the hands of noted hatchet man Nigel de Jong. Holden missed the rest of the club season, but still made the U.S. World Cup roster for South Africa.
The bigger blow came in March 2011 on tackle by Manchester United’s Jonny Evans (not that kind of player!) that left Holden needing stitches as well as torn ligaments. He was sidelined 16 months by the injury, finally playing for Bolton again in January 2013.
Holden’s played on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday the remainder of this season in the English Championship (second division), appearing in five games for the Sheffield-based club. He’s done enough to impress U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann, who late Thursday said he’ll call the midfielder into the U.S. camp in May-June along with using him during this summer’s Gold Cup.
The wording is a little vague. Holden could be called into the camp later this month ahead of friendlies with Belgium and Germany, but not be a factor for the World Cup qualifiers in June. This seems the more likely option – bring Holden into the fold, see how far along he’s come and then use him extensively in the less-important Gold Cup.
Of course if he’s 100 percent and meshes with the squad, why not use him in June?
Don’t forget three years ago Holden seemed like the player the U.S. could build its midfield around with Michael Bradley going into this World Cup cycle. His first full season at Bolton (2010-11) he was named the club’s Player of the Year.
His two-way ability and creative spark would be a welcome addition to the current core of defensive-minded midfield grinders.
However it pans out, it’s good to see Holden back in the fold and not falling in the same category as John O’Brien, another technically-gifted American midfielder who saw his career cut short by numerous injuries ensuring he never lived up to the potential we saw flashed briefly in the 2002 World Cup.
[Photo via Getty]