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Holden makes way back with U.S.

Midfielder puts in 1st full game in nearly two years

Ninety minutes.

That’s how long any soccer player who starts a game expects to be on the field. For Stuart Holden, playing a full match had become anything but routine.

The midfielder who has fought a severe knee injury for 21/2 years finally got in a full 90 for the first time since September 2011 on Tuesday when the United States beat Costa Rica 1-0 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He played well enough, although he wasn’t much of a factor as the Americans won their eighth straight match for the first time.

Still, just being able to go the distance was a major achievement for the 27-year-old Holden, who plays for Bolton in England’s second-tier League Championship and was a member of the 2010 U.S. World Cup squad.

“That was my first 90 in an official game, and it felt great,” he said. “I still had plenty of gas in the tank at the end, and it’s something you wonder about until you play the full match.

“I want to play every minute of every game. I thought I had a pretty good game and contributed in different ways.”

Holden’s recent history has been a painful one. He broke his right leg on a reckless tackle by the Netherlands’ Nigel de Jong in March 2010. He hurt his left knee against Manchester United from a horrific Jonny Evans tackle a year later. Holden returned from surgery for a League Cup match against Aston Villa that September, then needed more surgery eight days later.

He was out until January of this year, returning for three substitute appearances for Bolton, then four starts during a one-month loan to Sheffield Wednesday and another last-minute cameo for Bolton.

“I’ve been dealing with injuries and now it’s over and I have been moving on,” Holden said. “I want to be at my best as soon as I can, but if I am at 90 percent, I will give everything I have.

“Playing soccer again, being on the team and around the guys, it’s what I have been working for.”

Any hopes of making another World Cup team depend not only on Holden staying healthy, but making an impression on coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff.

Klinsmann has been using the Gold Cup to look at veterans such as Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley who have been maintstays of past U.S. teams, and to gauge the skills of youngsters such as Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Brek Shea.

Holden falls in the middle of those groups. He also faces stiff competition in the midfield, a particularly strong position now.

Fortunately, he has a fan in Klinsmann, who has shown a willingness to give every candidate a chance to impress during the countdown to Brazil 2014.


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