Bolton’s handling of Stuart Holden is nothing but praiseworthy

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With Stuart Holden possibly headed for a massive decision in the context of his career, we should reflect on what has come to pass before potentially devastating news hits the public.

The US international collapsed onto the pitch just 22 minutes into his return with the Bolton U-21 side against Everton, clutching his knee.

A picture of his injury surfaced on Twitter, a picture that invoked painful faces and stomach knots for anyone with half a heart.

The image shows the 28-year-old trooper in a crumpled heap on the pitch all by himself in the shot.

News was released by Bolton that Holden would head back to the United States, and while there’s hope that his injury does not result in the fourth torn ACL of his career, it doesn’t look good. Bolton manager Dougie Freedman said, “we feel that it’s the same injury.”

Not good. Not good at all. But where there is darkness, there is also light.

The light that comes from the endless adversity Stu Holden faces is the professionalism and human relation that Bolton has expressed throughout the midfielder’s injury trials.

Holden’s club has been a source of rich luminosity through his endless tunnel, supporting him through the entire tribulation.

Even after his latest setback, Freedman gushed with praise for his downed man.

“I want to be very clear to everybody that Stuart Holden will be here in some capacity at this football club,” said Freedman. “He is such a fantastic lad and is a great ambassador for this football club. He is a giver, and I believe that this football club needs people like that. Some people are just take, take, take, but Stuart has never once talked about his situation – he only ever talks about how we can win games and that is music to my ears.”

That speaks not only to Holden – who is by all accounts a perfect embodiment of Freedman’s words – but it also reflects the praiseworthy stance of the club.  They see Holden not as a dollar sign, not as strictly an employee, but as a human being, their player, and their friend.

The best part is, this is nothing new. It’s been this way for Holden at Bolton since he arrived there in 2010 and first found himself the recipient of the Jonny Evans red-card tackle a year later.  They’ve privately and publicly supported him throughout his recoveries.

Holden’s contract is up this summer, a major talking point and something he was hoping toward resolving with his return this spring.  If he has indeed ruptured his knee’s most unstable ligament yet again, it would be entirely understandable for Bolton to shut up shop and send the 28-year-old packing at his contract’s expiry.

And yet still, they are not ready to give up on Holden. Freedman visited Holden the day after he lay face down on the Reebok Stadium pitch, and came away with the following sentiment. “Stuart will hopefully be fine and will be back playing, but if he’s not then he’ll be back here during the summer trying to get fit to get back in some capacity.”

(Click here to read Dougie Freedman’s full update on Holden’s situation)

While there’s no doubt that could ultimately change, and Bolton could make a business decision that anyone would find difficult to question.  But if they remain steadfast in sticking by their American midfielder, it would only strengthen the admirable support they have shown Holden.

We await the results of the tests on his knee, and a diagnosis could be some time away given the previous trauma that his knee has endured (often previous ACL surgery clouds future scans and makes determining the extent of future injuries much more difficult).  But it would appear that no matter the final determination, Bolton will plod on with a resolve that most teams across all sports could only dream of showing their employees.

Because too often these days players are viewed as just that – employees on a paycheck.  But to Bolton, the 28-year-old American that lay in a heap last weekend was their man, and they wish to see him through the next chapter of his career just like the rest of us.

Let’s all stand up and applaud Bolton Wanderers.

Report: Sarachan’s contract with USMNT extended through June

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U.S. Soccer will wait until after the World Cup to decide on a new head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that U.S. Soccer had extended interim coach Dave Sarachan’s contract through June, after his original deal was set to expire this month. Sarachan has led the U.S. since the resignation of Bruce Arena last October. Sarachan was Arena’s long-time top assistant coach with the LA Galaxy and USMNT before taking the reigns.

[READ: Manneh added to USMNT squad]

Sarachan has led the U.S. to a pair of draws with Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with two U.S. starting lineups stocked with youngsters as the preparation for the 2022 World Cup gets underway.

Sarachan and the U.S. are currently holding a training camp in Cary, N.C. ahead of a friendly match next Tuesday against Paraguay. Sarachan will also coach the U.S. against Bolivia, Ireland and France before departing.

By extending Sarachan through June, it makes it more likely that U.S. Soccer will either look abroad for its next coach or pick a coach who is currently a free agent – like Caleb Porter – or already within the system – like Tab Ramos. It’s possible, but unlikely, that U.S. Soccer could sway Peter Vermes, Oscar Pareja or Gregg Berhalter to leave their clubs halfway through the season for the national team job, and it’s equally unlikely that U.S. Soccer would hold the position open until the next MLS offseason.

Joint World Cup bidders: Trump hasn’t sparked voter concerns

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Organizers of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup insist FIFA members have not expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s harsh words about foreigners or the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting corrupt soccer officials.

[ MORE: Digging into the latest USMNT roster ]

“Look, this is not geopolitics,” new U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said Monday during a conference call. “We’re talking about football and what fundamentally at the end of the day, what’s the best interests of football and our footballing community, and we’ve had no backlash. We’re very focused on the merits of our bid.”

A joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada was submitted to FIFA on Friday along with a proposal by Morocco. The 207 other members of the international soccer governing body will vote on June 13 in Moscow.

Cordeiro, Mexican Football Federation President Decio de Maria and Canadian Soccer Association President Steven Reed spoke from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they were meeting with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, a subset of the Asian Football Confederation.

A solo bid by the U.S. for the 2022 World Cup was favored going into the 2010 vote but lost to Qatar. FIFA then changed the vote rules to give the decision back to the entire membership, which chose hosts prior to 1986, when the choice started being made by the roughly two dozen members of its executive committee.

“We believe that the member associations are going to judge us on the quality of the bids, on the merits of our bid, and that’s it,” Reed said. “We’re very confident about what we’re putting forward, and I don’t think that we’re concerned about politics.”

Sixty games would be played in the U.S. under the bid plan, including all from the quarterfinals on. Three cities were included from Mexico and Canada, and both of those nations would host 10 games.

Holding a tournament in the U.S. would subject many of the documents generated to subpoena by U.S. federal prosecutors, who have secured numerous guilty pleas to corruption charges from soccer officials since 2015 and obtained convictions at trial last year against Juan Angel Napout, the former president of South American soccer’s governing body, and Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil’s soccer federation.

“We haven’t had any of those concerns raised by any of the members that we’ve met so far,” Cordeiro said. “The reforms that FIFA undertook some years ago I think were spot on and we feel very confident that ultimately the right decision will be made.”

Morocco’s bid envisions spending almost $16 billion, including $3 billion to construct nine new stadiums, refurbish five others and build or renovate 130 training grounds.

[ MORE: Brazil to face Austria in final World Cup tune-up match ]

The North American bid proposed venues be selected from among 23 stadiums that exist or already are under construction, including three each in Mexico and Canada. Sixteen of the U.S. stadiums are sites of NFL teams.

“The split of matches that we have proposed to FIFA frankly reflects the resources of the three countries,” Cordeiro said. “We in the United States are blessed with some very substantial resources in terms of stadium infrastructure, of cities and so on, and that reflects the 60 matches that we have on the table. But at the end of the day there is a reason why FIFA have asked for or have encouraged joint bids and we do think that our joint bids taken together provide for a vastly superior bid than our competition.”

AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

Ailing LA Galaxy could miss as many as 10 players this weekend

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We’re less than a month into the new Major League Soccer season, and one club is already left scrambling to find players for its next match.

[ MORE: A deeper look at the USMNT roster ]

Between injuries, international call ups and a suspension, the LA Galaxy could be without as many as 10 players this weekend.

Ola Kamara, Romain Alessandrini and Giovani dos Santos are among the notable names likely to be absent for Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but seven more players could be left unavailable for Sigi Schmid’s squad.

Kamara was the latest player to be named to his respective national team, with the striker being called up to Norway on Monday.

Meanwhile, both Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos have earned call ups to Mexico, and Emrah Klimenta has been selected by Montenegro for its next friendlies against Cyprus and Turkey.

Both Dos Santos brothers are battling injuries of their own, so they may not feature for El Tri, but that won’t necessarily help the Galaxy either as they are kept sidelined.

Of the ten players possibly missing the Whitecaps match, five of them (Michael Ciani, Cole, Gio dos Santos, J. dos Santos and Kamara) started in the Galaxy’s last game — a 2-1 loss to New York City FC.

Report: Chelsea, Real Madrid could make sensational swap

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Real Madrid’s interest in a certain Chelsea star has been well-noted for some time, and with the World Cup nearing this summer, Los Blancos may finally be able to get their man.

[ MORE: Brazil to play Austria in final World Cup tune-up ]

Eden Hazard has long been a Madrid target, and with the Belgium international seemingly more and more interested by a move away from Stamford Bridge, the veteran attacker could see himself join Real after the World Cup in Russia.

According to Spanish outlet Diario Gol, Real could secure a move for Hazard this summer, while sending young attacker Marco Asensio to Chelsea.

While hypothetical at this point, the move makes sense for both clubs, particularly from a Blues perspective as they look for young attacking players.

The 22-year-old Asensio has been seeking regular minutes at Madrid, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale regularly included in the starting squad, that has been nearly impossible for the Spanish international.

Meanwhile, Real would be gaining another incredibly talented attacking piece to go along with Ronaldo and Bale, although the latter has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu for some time.

Real has also been strongly linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar, who has spent less than a season in France.

It’s a ways away from happening, but a front three of Hazard, Ronaldo and Neymar would certainly make El Clasico even more intriguing than usual, with Real facing off against a Barcelona squad that currently boasts Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho.