Today, during the Gold Cup final which the US won, 1-0, over a resilient Panama team (a recap will be coming your way later), talented center midfielder Stu Holden went down to injury. Again. Holden reportedly suffered a sprain to his right knee. The biggest shame of recent times for the USMNT has been Holden’s persistent injury problems. Holden has not played significant minutes for his club side, Bolton Wanderers in England, since the spring of 2011, as he has battled major knee injures, from an ACL tear (which I am actually recovering from right now, so I know how painful it is and how grueling the 9-month rehab period is) to microfracture surgery to repair torn cartilage.
The US missed Holden dearly during his time on the sidelines. Holden is the rare American player who is completely comfortable in possession, and he is capable of impacting the game both offensively and defensively. He demonstrated when he returned from his injury nightmare that he can still be the same player.
Luckily for the US, central midfield is one of their deepest positions. Michael Bradley, the engine room for a quality Roma side, and Jermaine Jones, a bruiser from German club Shalke, man the two starting positions in Jurgen Klinsmann’s team. And Landon Donovan has shown that he is more than capable of playing alongside Clint Dempsey as a more attacking midfielder. However, Holden could have proved a vital addition to the squad during the World Cup next summer. Playing him instead of Jones would allow Bradley to become more defensive while still using his ball retention skills to great effect. The US side would become much more attractive with those two sitting behind Donovan in midfield, and Holden could replace most of Jones’ defense physicality while adding his own passing signature. Now, after Klinsmann said after the game that “It’s not looking good for Stu”, it is safe to assume that Holden’s injury to his knee is more serious than the sprain that was originally reported. For such a class act (he even won the 2008 Humanitarian of the Year Award in MLS) this latest setback can only be classified as a shame.