Canales Daily: Stuart Holden Plays For U.S., Not Scotland

In the case of Stuart Holden, another country is lamenting losing a player who could have aided their side, while the U.S. looks to the future with a technical and creative midfielder in the mix.
By Andrea Canales

It's the story of a player who got away. The details are related with a hint of wistful, what-might-have-been hindsight. A youngster from another country who came to the United States as a preteen. A love for soccer, disciplined drive and native talent were already evident when he was picked to be part of the U.S. youth national teams. The opportunity still existed to be a part of another national team, however.

Yet, as a recent article in Scotland's The Herald pointed out, the United States eventually managed to secure the services of midfielder Stuart Holden.

The tone in the piece definitely assigns partial blame to the inaction of the Scottish FA for the outcome, but it appears that the U.S. also took the initiative in the case of Holden.

"I wasn't going to sit around and wait for Scotland to come calling and, having played the majority of my soccer here in the US, it made sense to accept when I was called up by Bob Bradley," the Aberdeen native told the paper.

Bradley brought Holden on board for a marquee friendly match, in fact, though Holden didn't actually play in the game.

"To get a call up for the national team for a match against Mexico is a bit of a no-brainer," Holden said. "That showed me that Bob Bradley thought I was a player that could be part of his plans and I'm excited to try to push on and become established in the national side."

It seems the recipe to lure a dual-nationality player to the U.S. side does exist, and part of the formula is making a person feel like a valued contributor who will be offered a chance to make a difference. Holden has also been a key part of the United States U23 squad, scoring the winning goal versus Japan this past summer at the Beijing Olympics.

Of course, it also helps to have family involvement that is supportive of U.S. representation.

"My family were all behind me in my decision," Holden stated. "They pulled out the US flags."

Perhaps luck or fate played a bit of a role in Holden's journey to the U.S. colors. Four years ago, he was in England, playing with Sunderland. He was 19 at the time and had that stint gone differently, perhaps Scotland might have begun to court him.

Holden returned to the U.S. in 2006, however, and joined Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo. Houston was Holden's American home town, where most of his family was based, following his father's job transfer in the oil industry when Holden was just ten.

In his first season with the Dynamo, Holden could have had a traumatic experience with his new squad. With a key Dynamo player (Ricardo Clark) suspended, Holden was thrown into the championship final in extra time of the match. Any mistake could have cost his team the title.

The game eventually went to penalty kicks - the first and only title match in MLS history to be so decided. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear, himself a Scottish-American, selected Holden to be the second Dynamo player in the penalty-kick lineup.

Holden was the youngest player stepping up to the spot. His family and friends were looking on in the sold-out stadium. As Holden placed the ball for his kick, the opposing goalkeeper, Matt Ries (who would later convert a penalty of his own) tried to rattle him, asking, with a curse for emphasis, where the kick would be headed.

Perhaps the confidence of his youth helped push him through the pressure of the situation, but Holden didn't question or second-guess himself, nailing the kick into the upper corner of the net and becoming one of the heroes of the Dynamo's first championship.

It just worked out perfectly," Holden said at the time.

Now Holden has developed with Houston to the point where, as perennial All-Star Dwayne DeRosario departs to Toronto FC, Holden looks likely to step into that playmaking role with the club. On the national team level, Holden has been named to Bradley's January camp and could earn his first minutes with the U.S. senior squad in a friendly versus Sweden.

For all parties, it seems like things are working out in an ideal scenario. Except, perhaps, in Scotland's case.

Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of USA

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