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Stu Holden says he is "better as a player" following injury absence


On Tuesday night, the United States Men's National Team will kick off their 2013 Gold Cup campaign against Belize in Portland. Last Friday, the Americans faced Guatemala in a warm-up game, beating them 6-0 with a five goal flurry in the second half. That scoring rush was arguably inspired by Jurgen Klinsmann's halftime decision to introduce Mix Diskerud and Stu Holden into the match, opening the game up giving US Soccer some creative muscle.

Kick-off is still hours away but excitement is still rising as the United States and Stu Holden have a chance to make a mark in what is a reduced-strength tournament. The competition's two strongest teams, Mexico and the US, are both fielding weakened teams, providing fringe and injured players a platform on which they can prove they belong. Much of the focus from American media has been on Stu Holden, who can use the Gold Cup to really kick into gear for the 2013/14 Championship season.

Holden played 45 minutes against Guatemala and also made appearances against Panama and Belgium in the weeks before that. That half was the most time that Holden had seen in a US Soccer shirt in nearly two years and he hopes to see more.

Speaking to Jason Davis of the Best Soccer Show (a podcast/show that we consider great friends of the blog), Holden opened up about his injury and recovery:

"In my mind and in reality I came back from that a long time ago. I'm fully fit. I'm raring to go. I'm ready to contribute.

"Prior to [the Guatemala] game [Klinsmann] spoke to all the center mids and told us all of us were playing at a high level in training and [he] wasn't sure which way the coin was going to fall and it was up to us to go out there and show that we wanted to be on the pitch and who wanted to be a starter as we go through the Gold Cup.

"It's tough going through rehab. I'm not going to sugarcoat.

"At the same time the motivation comes from the alternative. You'd have to give up soccer so a lot of times that kept me going, that kept me motivated. I felt good, felt driven."

I've gotten better as a player being away from the game

"Being able to watch, being able to learn, being able to get stronger and faster and all the little things and in that sense you can't dwell on those types of things because it brings to much negativity to your life and you find yourself bringing down your play and yourself off the field."

You can see the full, ten-minute-long interview below.