Stuart Holden faces a long road back from injury -- again.
The USA midfielder suffered a torn right ACL in the 18th minute of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on Sunday, according to U.S. Soccer, marking the latest major injury setback the oft-hurt star has suffered in the last three years.
“We are absolutely devastated for Stuart,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in a statement. “He is such a great part of our team on the field and the locker room. He worked tremendously hard to recover from previous injuries and had really come back into form. He was fully prepared to head back to Bolton and challenge for a starting spot. Now he will have our full support as he goes down this road again, and we will be with him every step of the way.”
The last two months had been a comeback of grand proportions for the upbeat and charismatic Holden, who returned to the USA set up for the first time since his last major injury and was being worked into Klinsmann's rotation during the Gold Cup, receiving his most extensive work on the international level in more than two years. He appeared in one World Cup qualifier, five Gold Cup games and two friendlies during this recent stretch of matches, scoring a goal in a 6-1 win over Belize in the Gold Cup group stage.
Holden, 27, earned the start in Sunday's final against Panama, which the USA won 1-0 to capture its fifth Gold Cup title and first since 2007, but was replaced by Mix Diskerud after suffering the injury and had a look of dismay as he sat helplessly on the bench after yet another setback in his injury-marred career.
Prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Holden suffered a broken leg after a Nigel de Jong challenge in a friendly against the Netherlands. He bounced back to make the World Cup roster and had a standout campaign for Bolton -- he was named the team's player of the season -- until a tackle by Manchester United's Jonny Evans led to a major knee injury that kept him sidelined for months.
Holden's return from the injury was brief, as a routine checkup revealed torn cartilage that required another surgery and another injury layoff. He was out of action for nearly 16 months before returning this spring, first on loan with Sheffield Wednesday and then for Bolton's promotion push down the stretch, one that ultimately came up short.
Holden signed a one-year contract extension with Bolton to carry him through the 2013-14 season, one which he won't be able to partake in for some time.