>Monday Lunch: Is Stuart Holden The Next USMNT Star?

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

>By Evan Ream

I say star in a relative way because the United States Men’s National Team has never truly had a star field player. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey right now are close, and Claudio Reyna a few years ago was as well, but USA has never truly had a star field player playing consistently for a top European Club team and delivering good performances week in and week out. Stuart Holden is 25 already, so it is unlikely that he will ever become one of these types of players, but that isn’t what I wish to discuss. Right now on the USMNT, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are a level above every other field player; Stu Holden has the chance to rise to their level with his recent success and be a focal point for the national team.
Just two seasons ago, Stuart Holden was an afterthought. The Iceman may have not even seen playing time if Dwayne De Rosario hadn’t been traded from Houston Dynamo to Toronto FC. It was there, in 2009, that Holden was a regular starter for the first time and earned rave reviews from everyone who watched him play. He was then called up to the 2009 Gold Cup squad where he was easily USA’s best player; scoring goals like this one and overall proving that he was worth a spot on the World Cup team that he made despite a broken leg a few months before it.
From here, he had his now famous move to Bolton on a free transfer. I’ll admit that I was skeptical for a while about his situation. He was originally only offered a trial despite proving himself in multiple competitions. I thought that Owen Coyle didn’t have enough confidence in his abilities to buy him outright. Any speculation that I had was quickly ended when Holden earned a starting spot in the lineup and began to play very well. I had high hopes for him when he first arrived, but I didn’t think he could adjust to the English game as well as he did, as fast as he did.
Fast-forward to the next EPL season and we have a revelation. Stuart Holden is not only starting and playing 90 minutes for every game that he is available, but he is also one of the best players in the league. Starting at center mid, Holden has scored two very well taken goals, both of which were game winners.
Now, what I have neglected to mention thus far is that Holden is doing all of this for the sixth ranked team in the league. When was the last time anyone could say that there was an American field player playing a vital role for a club doing this well? Yes, it is early in the season, but Bolton aren’t getting results based on bunkering in and playing defensive soccer. Bolton go out and attack teams with Holden being the focal point of their attack at times.
This brings me to the part where Holden enters the USMNT equation. Stu has never been a regular starter because of the amount of quality players in the USA midfield. If USA decides to keep their 4-4-2 formation (which makes absolutely no sense considering the dearth of quality forwards to pick from), then Holden will likely never get a chance. But, if Bob Bradley switches to a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 like he did against Poland, then we will get a chance to see what he can do. I think this change HAS to happen. I’m indifferent to where Holden plays (whether it’s on the wing or as an attacking midfield), but I also know that USA needs their best 11 players on the field at all times.
Stu brings things to the table that no other current national team player does. He is currently the best striker of the ball in the player pool, whether it is from dead ball situations, or situations like his volley Sunday. Overall, USA doesn’t strike the ball from distance as much as they should; Dempsey is usually the only player who has the confidence and the ability to do it well. It’s these kinds of intangibles that USA is missing; the ability to take players on and to be confident is something that is always needed and Holden provides it.
If Bradley gives Holden a chance as he did at Bolton, then he can become as good as Donovan and Dempsey. USA has always needed more quality attacking players like Holden and this is the chance to get one consistently playing. I guess this article has turned into more of a plea than a question, but it is fitting. If Stuart Holden isn’t in USA’s starting XI from now on, always, then Bob Bradley isn’t doing something right. Quite simply, Holden needs to play and he needs to play now, because if he does, he will be our best player for the 2014 World Cup, and that’s saying something.

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Well said. Bob needs to figure out a way to get Stuart on the field. He has arguably been Bolton's best player this year and they are having a phenomenal season. That's impressive.

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