The year of Stuart Holden: Chapter 2
On a podcast late last year, I predicted 2010 would be "The Year of Stuart Holden." At the time, current MLSsoccer.com managing editor Jonah Freedman laughed.
And he was correct. You know the story: Just six months after Holden earned his first cap for the United States National Team, the Scotland-born, Texas-bred midfielder moved to Bolton in late January. He looked set to break into Owen Coyle's starting lineup until the Netherlands’ Nigel de Jong broke his leg during a March 4 friendly.
While Holden recovered in time to make the United States World Cup squad, he only played 10 minutes in South Africa. Hardly a brilliant showing. It was a disappointing result for a player many thought would challenge for a starting spot.
While his performance in the Southern Hemisphere was underwhelming, his start to the 2010011 English Premier League season proved that Coyle's faith in the midfielder wasn't misplaced. A fully fit Holden has started in the center of the pitch during each of the side's four matches, helping Bolton to a 1-1-2 record.
That's good enough to help a squad many have tabbed for relegation currently tied for eighth place with five points. With three of their next five matches against EPL doormats Stoke City, West Brom and Wigan, Bolton should stay mid-table through October.
It's early in the campaign, but the squad looks to keep wandering in the right direction with Holden holding the flashlight.
The 25-year-old will translate his solid, if not spectacular, play to the US National Team. It's increasingly clear that Bob Bradley needs to find room on the pitch for the tireless midfielder, who possesses more than a dash of creativity.
Holden's versatility is vital. After starting on the wing for the Houston Dynamo, he moved to a more central role following the departure of Dwayne De Rosario. As a result, Holden thrives both out wide – where his crossing ability shines – and in the middle. He'll play an important role in the October friendlies as well as next year's Gold Cup and beyond.
As 2010 turns into 2011, the Texan will help lead both club and country. The "Year of Stuart Holden" wasn't canceled; it was merely postponed six months. And when it ends up lasting a lot longer than a year, well, I'll be laughing then.