The oft-injured Bolton midfielder has a clean bill of health and has worked his way back onto the field, and he is set to rejoin the USA for the first time since October 2010.Stuart Holden's long road back to the U.S. national team is weeks away from completion.
In comments made on U.S. Soccer's official website Thursday, manager Jurgen Klinsmann said he is going to be recalling Holden for the upcoming May-June camp and for this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. Holden, who has had to combat long-term injury bouts for about three years, has not appeared with the USA since October 2010 in a friendly against Colombia.
Holden, who has returned to full fitness, spent the last month on loan with Sheffield Wednesday before being recalled by Bolton ahead of its playoff promotion push. In all, he has played in eight games during his comeback, including four starts at Sheffield Wednesday.
“We’ve been in touch with Stuart throughout this whole injury period,” Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. “The last couple of months have given us a lot of positive signals. I spoke to his coach at Bolton, and spoke to his coach at Sheffield Wednesday where he played some very important minutes and games while on loan. He’s on his way back. That being said, we want to have him back in our picture. We are going to bring him for the May-June camp, and also for the Gold Cup.”
Klinsmann said that Bolton has been supportive of Holden's pending recall, even though the club's management has been adamant about bringing him back along at a steady pace and not accelerating his progress to the point where he overexerts himself and winds up hurt again.
“We have the backing from his club that we can play him through the summer,” Klinsmann said. “He knows there won’t be big vacation time, and he said ‘I don’t want vacation anymore. I had one and a half years off!’ So that’s exciting news for us, having him back in the group and seeing him and evaluating where he’s at, and helping him become the old Stuart Holden, and even better because he’s still so young.”
Holden figured to be a linchpin in the U.S. lineup for years to come leading into the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but he had his leg broken by a Nigel de Jong tackle in a friendly against the Netherlands a few months before the competition and was reduced to one substitute appearance.
He bounced back to have a player-of-the-season-caliber campaign for Bolton the following season, one that was cut short when Manchester United's Jonny Evans sliced a gash above Holden's knee in a sliding challenge.
The injury, and further complications after it, had Holden out of commission for the better part of two years before Holden made a clean comeback this winter. Klinsmann lauded Holden's mindset and character as complements to his talent in the midfield but warned against automatically penciling his name in the U.S. lineup unconditionally.
“He’s a tremendous character,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a positive thinker. He’s a giver, and you need givers on your team. When you go toward the World Cup you always need to look out for people who are able to suffer and be there for their teammates. Stuart is a role model in that. At the end of the day, it still depends on how good he is and how strong he comes back, and we are excited to see how he does.”