When Stuart Holden left Sunday’s game under his own power, there was reason to believe his early withdrawal was a precautionary measure. Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking after his team claimed the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, gave fans reason for pause, though, hinting the decision to take the Bolton midfielder off after 23 minutes reflected a more grave concern.
Asked about Holden’s status after the match, Klinsmann described the right knee injury as potentially “very serious,” not the prognosis fans were hoping for when the U.S. international exited Sunday’s game. Having left on his feet as opposed to a stretcher, there was reason to hope halftime’s “sprained” diagnosis would hold. Maybe the 27-year-old, who has undergone two knee surgeries since being injured on March 19, 2011 (albeit to his other knee), was no worse than he seemed while calmly walking to the locker room?
Even after Klinsmann’s pessimism, ‘sprain’ is the only diagnosis we have. But if there wasn’t some fear within U.S. camp that Holden’s knee might be worse, Klinsmann may have chose his words differently. He’s not a trainer, and he’s not a doctor, but he is somebody unlikely to label something as possibly “very serious” if there was no cause to do so.
The fact that this was a non-contact injury will only foster worries. In the 20th minute, Holden’s left knee collided with Panama midfielder Alberto Quintero, the challenge shifting the U.S. midfielder onto his right knee. Holden immediately went to ground, brought his knee to his chest, and clutched it in obvious pain.
For a man who’s played only five club games since his 2011 injury, this is the nightmare scenario. After making it through two months of U.S. national team duty without incident, Holden goes down the game before he’s set to fly back to Bolton – with a potentially new injury, to his other knee.
As he laid on the ground at Solider Field, you could see every fear of re-injury in his tightly clenched eyes. By the time he was up, strolling off, eventually walking to the locker room, he’d put on a strong enough face to make us forget.
But all that means nothing when somebody says the words “very serious.”