It’s not just the soccer aspect – because most U.S. supporters certainly believed his versatile skill set and midfield drive would make the United States better at World Cup 2014.
And it’s not just the “life isn’t fair” aspect – that the guy just cannot catch a break injury-wise, now on his third major recovery in three years.
It’s also the infallibly positive attitude Holden has maintained through all this. Even after Monday’s awful news, the worst-fears-confirmed announcement that Holden had indeed suffered a torn ACL, there he was, preternaturally hopeful and brave, staring down the awfulness of it all:
He also Tweeted out the photo you see upper right on this post. Good on the man. His ability to rise above the lameness of fate and his refusal to feel sorry for himself is a lesson for us all.
But here is the grim news as we look at the calendar – along with the less attractive element of my job, the truth telling as best as I can:
ACL recovery is generally a 6-9 month process. It can be done in six months, if all goes well; Fellow U.S. international Omar Gonzalez reminded us of that last year, although he needed another month or so to get back to his most effective version.
But for Holden, given all the previous knee issues, a six-month recovery is asking an awful lot. Nine months might even sound optimistic.
A nine-month recovery would put Holden back on the field in April. Even then, considering how long he would have been away from the game, considering the physical trauma the inner working of his knees and legs have endured, looking at the recent recovery efforts, considering some of the technical aspects of Holden’s game that clearly still required some polish even after almost a month back on the field …
It’s just difficult to see Holden being ready for the 2014 World Cup.
I know that is not what anybody wants to hear. And in all honesty, I’d love to be wrong on this one. But that’s the way I see it today.
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann would surely be hesitant to use a roster spot unless Holden has proven his readiness by May of 2013, when the 23 spots will be announced and the pre-tournament camp will commence. It’s not just that Holden must be fit and polished enough for professional soccer by then. He has to be World Cup ready by then. That is a very different level.
I think back to Charlie Davies and his devastating injuries. I wrote well before the 2010 World Cup roster announcement that Davies could not possibly be ready … and the reader contempt poured in. Weeks later, more incredulity rained down on Bob Bradley and the U.S staff for not taking Davies to South Africa.
Then, all the Bradley critics pretty much disappeared quietly when they actually saw a greatly diminished version of Davies play in MLS.
Emotionally, these are apples and oranges, I know. Fairly or unfairly, there was always a feeling in some corners that Davies had brought some of it on himself. No one has ever said such a thing with Holden; Again, it’s just a huge bummer for everyone.
Speaking of bummers, here is something else nobody wants to hear: John O’Brien.
As in, let’s forget for a second about World Cup 2014 and just hope that Holden doesn’t become the next O’Brien, the World Cup 2002 standout for the United States, who was 26 years old during his final injury-spared season for Ajax.
Chronic injuries forced O’Brien out of the game; he was done by 2006 at age 29.
As for Holden, who is 27, let’s just hope it doesn’t go there. He has good years left in the game, at Bolton FC or somewhere. Let’s hope Holden, with all his brave resilience, gets healthy and can enjoy a few good professional seasons.