"My big aim is to help the US qualify for the World Cup. Rio is really a firm fixture for me." That is what Stuart Holden told the Bolton News in a recent interview. The American's last appearance for the United States Men's National Team came in 2010 when he was an 85th minute substitute in the Yanks' 1-1 World Cup draw with England at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
Three years later, Stu Holden and Bolton Wanderers had put in some incredible Premier League performances, reaching sixth place in the table and the FA Cup semifinal. Then, Jonny Evans' studs met Holden's knee and it all fell to pieces. Bolton Wanderers plummeted without Holden anchoring the midfield, dropping from European competition contention to (briefly) fighting a relegation battle at the bottom of the Championship.
Owen Coyle was fired and Dougie Freedman came in, shoring things up and pushing Bolton on a late run way up the table. Sitting in sixth place, Bolton have a very real opportunity to go back to the Premier League at the first time of asking and Stu Holden has a chance to be a vital part of that.
Holden's month-long loan at Sheffield Wednesday provided the central midfielder with some very important competitive minutes that just could not be replicated in the U21 system. Despite Wednesday manager Dave Jones' hopes of keeping Holden until the end of the season, the Trotters were desperate to get him back. An injury to Jay Spearing that will keep the Liverpool loanee out for another couple of weeks at least. This opens up a big chance for Stu.
For the United States Men's National Team, the Gold Cup tournament looms large. The United States, along with arguably the five best other teams in CONCACAF (Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama), will not be fielding their strongest sides. Those six teams are still embroiled in a heated battle for World Cup qualification known as the Hexagonal where only 3.5 (fourth place in the group will face New Zealand) of the entrants will make the trip to Rio. As a result of that, the US will field what is, for all intents and purposes, a "B" team featuring players on the fringes of the full Men's National Team as well as a heavy contingent of Major League Soccer stars. Holden is in the mix.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has not forgotten about the American midfielder. The United States boss held a media gathering outside of Washington DC on Thursday and reminded the press (per the Washington Post) that Stu was very much on his radar:
"Stuart excites us. He is really coming back. What he really needs is games, games, games - minutes, minutes, minutes. It's looking very positive.
"He doesn't want a [summer] break! He said, ‘I had a break for 1 1/2 years.' "
Ives Galarcep was at the event and shared what Klinsmann said:
Klinsmann wants wait and see how Holden's season at Bolton finishes up, but he clearly rates Holden and eager to have him back healthy+fit— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) April 24, 2013
Klinsmann went on to say that the Gold Cup roster would heavily feature MLS players, those based in Scandinavia, and USMNT fringe players. Those players would be called into a May camp for the team and Klinsmann seemed to say that players not in that camp would not be involved in the Gold Cup. Holden could be an exception to that rule. If Bolton Wanderers make the playoffs and advance to the final, Stu could be in match action until very late May, ruling him out of the camp entirely.
Speaking in an interview with the Bolton News, Holden had detailed his contact with the US boss:
"Klinsmann called me before the Leeds game (at Sheffield Wednesday) and said he'd been watching me. He was impressed with my attitude getting back out there," he said.
"He mentioned to me the word ‘rhythm' and getting those repetitions. The assistant manager was at the Leeds game and he wrote me a nice email after the game to say ‘run with it' and see how far I can push on now.
"I think Klinsmann has spoken to Dave Jones and Dougie Freedman about the best way to keep me going over the summer. There are a lot of games and I want to be involved. The last thing I need is a summer vacation and to be sitting around.
"It hasn't been two years off in terms of a holiday but it has been a lot of time away from football and I want to play as much as I can. I think Klinsmann's style of play really will suit me. I think my best position is through the middle but for Sheffield Wednesday and for the national team the role has been out wide, so it's good to have that versatility."
A busy summer could be on the cards for Stu.