The lively blonde playmaker who popped in a nice freekick for the USA's opening goal and delivered a quality corner to set up the second score for the Americans may not have looked like a recovering player, but Stuart Holden was in fact on the comeback trail from a leg fracture sustained in the USA's friendly earlier this year versus the Netherlands. Holden's leg was broken by a Nigel DeJong tackle that didn't even earn the Dutchman a red card.
Considering it was Holden's first full match since that injury, he played remarkably well, showing off his versatility for USA coach Bob Bradley by playing both on the wing and in the center of the field.
"That's been one of my strengths as a player, that I can play more than one position," Holden said. "I'm comfortable playing out wide on the right, I'm comfortable playing in the middle. The way we play, I can slide in and out - try to find the ball."
Though Holden has often played on the wing for the USA, partly due to his ability to hit a nice cross, the switch in this game could have been a little test from Bradley to see how Holden managed.
"That's only going to help me going forward," Holden claimed. "Bob knows I'm comfortable playing in the middle - that's where I play with Bolton."
Since completing the move from the Houston Dynamo to Bolton Wanderers in England this year, Holden broke into the Owen Coyle's lineup after a relatively short adjustment period. However, his leg injury then sidelined him from all but the final game of Bolten's season. Holden played a few minutes in that match as a substitute. Though he ran to improve his fitness and trained with the USA team, he had not played a game since.
"It's the first 90 minutes for me in about three months," Holden explained of the Czech match. "Coming off my rehab, it was important for me to get a game. You can't really replicate a game in training. As far as the leg, everything held up on that end."
However, Holden's lack of game fitness took a toll towards the end of the match, when his set pieces became far less effective.
"I was disappointed in myself, because I thought in the first half that my deliveries were good and in dangerous areas," acknowledged the midfielder. "I think I got a little bit lackadaisical in my set pieces as my legs got tired. I'll focus more on it going forward. I think as I get my legs under me and get more fit, that'll come."
Though testing out several World Cup hopefuls in the match, the USA played the Czech's evenly for most of the game.
"In the first half and the second half, I thought we created enough chances to score," Holden said. "It just didn't quite come off for us. Obviously, we're disappointed in the result, but I think we still take a lot of positives from the game."
What the USA won't take is seven players - as the roster is due to be cut down to only 23 for the World Cup.
"We're going to support everyone, whether they're on the roster or not," Holden stated. "This is the tough part. The coach has a tough decision to make. If it goes your way, great, you're going to be helping the team in South Africa, if not, you move on and you support the team and you try and put it behind you."
For his part, Holden tried to keep the Czech loss in perspective, speculating the outcome would have been different if he was fully fit.
"My legs got away from me," Holden said. "We were pressing on them pretty hard at 2-2, but unfortunately they then went the other way and scored."
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