PORTLAND, Ore. – Stuart Holden last completed 90 minutes on Sept. 20, 2011.
That match came six months after Jonny Evans fractured Holden's knee. It came 18 months after Nigel De Jong broke his leg, effectively ruining his chances of starting at the 2010 World Cup for the United States.
Following the Sept. 20 match for Bolton, against Aston Villa in the League Cup, a routine checkup found damaged cartilage, which required microfracture surgery. He didn't make another appearance until 2013, and has yet to close out a game.
Holden's aim is to change that in the upcoming Gold Cup match.
“That's the hope – as a player and a competitor I want to be out there every minute of the game,” Holden said. “If I get a chance to start, I'm definitely 90 minutes ready, I'm 90 minutes fit. If that chance comes against Cuba in Salt Lake then I'll be ready.”
The 27-year-old tended to come off at the hour mark during his four starts on loan with Sheffield Wednesday this season. Jurgen Klinsmann has capped the Bolton midfielder at 45 minutes a match, sending him on at half of the Guatemala friendly and the Gold Cup opener against Belize. The United States scored six goals in each.
Five of the goals against Guatemala came with Holden on the field. He assisted the fourth overall, hitting a diagonal ball across his body and taking out the entire defensive line for Landon Donovan to sweep home. The delicate, audacious ball reminded fans that, when fit, Holden offers a midfield dynamic no one else in the U.S. pool can match.
Klinsmann mentioned that JELD-WEN Field's turf played into his decision not to start Holden against Belize.
“I found myself on the bench in the first half singing along to the chants,” Holden said.
When he did come into the match, Holden scored the Yanks' fourth goal, off Donovan's 50th international assist.
“It felt good. It felt really good,” Holden said. “To get on the scoresheet again and more importantly be a part of a winning team. Four years – I didn't know it was four years since my last international goal, but I guess if you put it that way it's been a while.”
The former Houston Dynamo's last international goal came in the 2009 Gold Cup, when he popped up in stoppage time to score the equalizer in a 2-2 with Haiti. “Had to pull one out of the bag there,” Holden said with a chuckle.
With Klinsmann easing Holden back into contention (“It's all being going about in the right way,” Holden said) and the compressed Gold Cup schedule, Holden may not last the full 90 against Cuba. But he could very well make his first international start since Oct. 12, 2010.
“Every game that I play I feel better,” Holden said. “I feel like I'm back in that sense.”
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