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Holden can earn stripes back by leading midfield stars


With Stu Holden's call-up and the Gold Cup fast approaching for the United States Men's National Team, it's fair to say that interest in seeing the dynamic midfielder playing once more is as high as ever. Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man squad was officially announced yesterday and with Holden leading the midfield corps, there are plenty of options for the Bolton Wanderers star.

In his United States squad, Jurgen Klinsmann named seven midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsinborg), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde FK), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jose Torres (Tigres). There is also the potential for Landon Donovan, named as a forward, to play as a midfielder, having done so in the past for club and country. Of those eight players, six are central midfielders and will fight to occupy the two available spots in Klinsmann's formation.

In recent history for the national team, Klinsmann has played a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jozy Altidore up top, Clint Dempsey behind him, Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi on either flank, with a combination of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones taking up the central midfielder and holding midfielder roles. For much of the qualifying process, this was Klinsmann's favored setup with the manager swapping pieces out here and there as needed. There is really no reason to believe that what the manager chooses to do for the Gold Cup will be much different.

With that in mind and in keeping with the 23-man Gold Cup squad, Klinsmann's options begin to sort themselves out. Fans can likely expect one of Jack McInerney, Will Bruin, Herculez Gomez, or Chris Wondolowski to play on their own up front. Behind them, Landon Donovan and Alejandro Bedoya or Josh Gatt on the wings with Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, or Jose Francisco Torres in the center. That leaves the two central midfielders and the four names that can fill the role.

In the past, Klinsmann has shown his penchant for defensive midfielders, at times employing three in the same starting XI. In his squad, only one was named in Kyle Beckerman and odds are that he will be occupying that role for most of the group stages at the very least.

One midfielder spot to go with Holden, Diskerud, and Torres vying for it. If the question is seniority, the job is Torres's who has been in the side since 2008 with 20 caps, compared to Holden's 2009 entry and 19 caps. Diskerud is the least experienced at just 22 years old with three caps to his name. None of those caps have come in competitive fixtures and as such, Diskerud is not yet cap-tied and can still make a one-time switch to play for Norway. The Gold Cup is the opportunity for the US to finally confirm Mix as an American player.

Then, there's Holden. Of those three midfielders, Holden is the only one to participate in Klinsmann's May/June national team camp, the only one to play in the friendlies prior to qualifying, and the only one to play in the Hex. Holden's minutes were limited in those matches but they were there and the coach has signalled his intent for Holden on numerous occasions.

Speaking to US Soccer's website following the roster announcement, Klinsmann stated that this was the chance to get back into the full national team fold for Holden and other players:

"The door is always open; you never shut the door in soccer to players, no matter what difficult stretch they are going through with their club teams. This is a good way to show them that even though they went through tough moments with their clubs, we always kept things open.

"We made it clear that it's down to the player to understand their opportunities. If you look at Oguchi Onyewu or Michael Parkhurst or Stuart Holden, this is their opportunity. Things didn't go the way they wished over the last season or months, but there is the opportunity because some players can't be here and because they deserve it."

Klinsmann was also asked about Holden's fitness, to which he replied that the Bolton man was "very close."

A month ago, Holden expressed his excitement in being back with the national team:

The Gold Cup will provide Stu with a springboard into the 2013/14 Championship season. If the United States men go far in the tournament, Holden will miss the majority of Bolton's pre-season but it won't be due to injury or not being fit. The United States kick off their tournament on the 9th of July against Belize in Portland at the Timbers' Jeld-Wen Field.