Looking at the calendar, contemplating Stuart Holden’s recovery and World Cup 2014 prospects

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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:

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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.

VIDEO: American teen Wright scores first 2.Bundesliga goal

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For all the talk about Schalke’s 18-year-old American wunderkind, Weston McKennie, it’s easy to forget that three young Yanks signed for the Bundesliga side.

One of them, Haji Wright, scored four goals in a preseason match before being loaned out to Sandhausen in 2.Bundesliga.

Ex-New York Cosmos striker Wright, 19, came off the bench for Sandhausen in its league opener Saturday, and didn’t wilt when given a clear scoring chance alone in the 18.

[ MORE: Bundesliga preview with Howedes, Nastasic ]

Wright has scored 31 goals at the U.S. youth national team level, and Bruce Arena will be quite familiar with him given a four-year stint with the LA Galaxy Academy.

Fellow American striker Andrew Wooten is on the books at Sandhausen, but the veteran was not in the 18.

Here’s video, found by American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta:

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.