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Looking at the calendar, contemplating Stuart Holden’s recovery and World Cup 2014 prospects

Jul 29, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT


It’s not just the soccer aspect – because most U.S. supporters certainly believed his versatile skill set and midfield drive would make the United States better at World Cup 2014.

And it’s not just the “life isn’t fair” aspect – that the guy just cannot catch a break injury-wise, now on his third major recovery in three years.

It’s also the infallibly positive attitude Holden has maintained through all this. Even after Monday’s awful news, the worst-fears-confirmed announcement that Holden had indeed suffered a torn ACL, there he was, preternaturally hopeful and brave, staring down the awfulness of it all:


He also Tweeted out the photo you see upper right on this post. Good on the man. His ability to rise above the lameness of fate and his refusal to feel sorry for himself is a lesson for us all.

But here is the grim news as we look at the calendar – along with the less attractive element of my job, the truth telling as best as I can:

ACL recovery is generally a 6-9 month process. It can be done in six months, if all goes well; Fellow U.S. international Omar Gonzalez reminded us of that last year, although he needed another month or so to get back to his most effective version.

But for Holden, given all the previous knee issues, a six-month recovery is asking an awful lot. Nine months might even sound optimistic.

A nine-month recovery would put Holden back on the field in April. Even then, considering how long he would have been away from the game, considering the physical trauma the inner working of his knees and legs have endured, looking at the recent recovery efforts, considering some of the technical aspects of Holden’s game  that clearly still required some polish even after almost a month back on the field …

It’s just difficult to see Holden being ready for the 2014 World Cup.

I know that is not what anybody wants to hear. And in all honesty, I’d love to be wrong on this one. But that’s the way I see it today.

U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann would surely be hesitant to use a roster spot unless Holden has proven his readiness by May of 2013, when the 23 spots will be announced and the pre-tournament camp will commence. It’s not just that Holden must be fit and polished enough for professional soccer by then. He has to be World Cup ready by then. That is a very different level.

I think back to Charlie Davies and his devastating injuries. I wrote well before the 2010 World Cup roster announcement that Davies could not possibly be ready … and the reader contempt poured in. Weeks later, more incredulity rained down on Bob Bradley and the U.S staff for not taking Davies to South Africa.

Then, all the Bradley critics pretty much disappeared quietly when they actually saw a greatly diminished version of Davies play in MLS.

Emotionally, these are apples and oranges, I know. Fairly or unfairly, there was always a feeling in some corners that Davies had brought some of it on himself. No one has ever said such a thing with Holden; Again, it’s just a huge bummer for everyone.

Speaking of bummers, here is something else nobody wants to hear: John O’Brien.

As in, let’s forget for a second about World Cup 2014 and just hope that Holden doesn’t become the next O’Brien, the World Cup 2002 standout for the United States, who was 26 years old during his final injury-spared season for Ajax.

Chronic injuries forced O’Brien out of the game; he was done by 2006 at age 29.

As for Holden, who is 27, let’s just hope it doesn’t go there. He has good years left in the game, at Bolton FC or somewhere. Let’s hope Holden, with all his brave resilience, gets healthy and can enjoy a few good professional seasons.

  1. soccerjohn - Jul 29, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    That kid is something special. I’m more demonstrative over a stubbed toe than he was about a torn ACL. And his continued positive attitude is truly amazing.

    Sadly, I’m right with you, Steve, about his chances of playing in Brazil. Even if everything went as well as it possibly could and he resumed training in 6 months, how could he be sharp enough to contribute meaningfully after what amounts to nearly three full years out of meaningful competition? Would Klinsmann be well-advised to take him even if he looked like a world-beater, given how undependable his knee has been?

    I hope he proves everyone wrong and makes it. But more, I hope he isn’t crushed if/when he fails.

  2. reformed2012 - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    The only way forward for US Soccer is to increase its depth… we have world class atheletes but they are all in the wrong sports….. this can only be fixed by government incentives such as national high school tournament and NCAA spring/summer champions league (the current format sucks big time), along with experimenting salary programs for collegiate soccer players. We need to support using taxpayers money to prop up U.S. soccer, like most other countries do for their counter part.

  3. bellerophon30 - Jul 30, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    John O’Brien is one of the great ‘what if’s’ in US soccer history. He could have been our first true superstar on the pitch, but his body just wouldn’t cooperate. I’m not saying that Stuart has that kind of potential necessarily…….but his body seems eerily similar in its willingness to betray him.

    He’s not going to be on the roster next year. Jurgen already stretched a point putting him on the summer roster this time, which isn’t really like him (witness him making Landon grovel). I just feel so bad for Stuart, he seems like a great guy and he’s gifted on the pitch. He deserves better.

  4. nussdorferac - Jul 30, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    He wasn’t certain to even get the call for the next round of qualifiers and he was healthy. So he needs to just get healthy, again. That is so sad for him.

  5. merseysideoc - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Holden’s injurious career is reminiscent of Owen Hargreaves. Another stout-hearted defensive mid plagued with knee issues, went under the knife, rehabbed & in his first match out roughly 2 years later, had to be subbed off in under 10 minutes.

    At least Holden had the chance to play a vital part in the US’s Gold Cup championship, but as with any player, the dream is the World Cup. Unfortunately, that’s even more distant now for Stu. All the best to him & his recovery, gutted for the lad.

  6. midtec2005 - Jul 30, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    The other sad part about this is that Stu wasn’t even injury prone originally… his injuries have just (initially) come from horror tackles. I’m sure him and Johnny Evans aren’t the best of friends. Hopefully he can at least get 3 or 4 good professional years under his belt without injury.

  7. drdaryl1 - Jul 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Too bad DeJong and Jonny Evans couldn’t feel a little of Stuart’s pain!

  8. hildezero - Jul 31, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    I have a feeling he’ll be playing again before the World Cup starts, but I think he won’t be chosen by US Soccer in the roster.

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