Stuart Holden in United States, but expected back to Bolton soon

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Luckless U.S. international Stuart Holden popped up at his old Texas home over the weekend, encouraging the Houston Dynamo in the MLS club’s playoff series opener against New York.

Soon enough, however, the Bolton midfielder will be back in England and nearer to a return with Championship side Bolton FC. That’s according to manager Dougie Freedman, who says the U.S. midfielder should return to training at the Reebok Stadium in the “early part of the year.”

Freedman says he has remained in contact with the player over the phone and that Holden remains in good spirits. Then again, when has that not been the case with Holden? His capacity to remain positive through repeated, maddening injury frustration seems nothing short of inspirational.

What Freedman told the official club site about Holden, whose latest injury setback was a severe knee injury suffered in late June with the national team:

“I’m in contact with Stuart and he’s doing well. We do know he is set to come back over here in the near future. We’re expecting to see him just before Christmas.

“We obviously need to make sure that his comeback isn’t rushed and that everything is okay. When he comes back he’s going to spend a month or so with us so that we can make sure that the rehabilitation is being done in the right way. The plan then is for over the Christmas period and into January he’ll head back over to the States to make sure that the guys who are doing his rehab are fully up to speed.

“Then when he’s at a good level hopefully we can look at reintroducing him to training into the early part of the year.”

Before any of the good citizens of U.S. Soccer Supporter Valley begin doing the math here, counting weeks and months from “early next year” until Brazil, take a deep breath.

Holden’s chances of making Jurgen Klinsmann roster are remote at best. That’s certainly no comment on the man’s resolve, his commitment to timely recovery or his ability. It’s just reality. It’s just that he’s so far from being able to contribute to his club team. Once he does that, he’s still a considerable distance from being able to contribute at an international level.

He’s been away from a good run of full-time soccer since March of 2011. (What Holden did this summer, joining up with the national team but still not playing with any week-to-week rhythm, fell short of classification as “good run of full-time soccer.”  Same with the spring loan spell to Sheffield Wednesday, where Holden made four appearances.)

I’ve written before and stand by it: the guy really needs to focus on putting his professional career back on track. Any efforts to push the recovery time table on the outside chance of getting into Klinsmann’s 23 for the World Cup seems imprudent and probably implausible. At 28, Holden could still put together a meaningful career in England (or elsewhere), and that’s got to be his priority for now.

MLS weekend preview: Busy Saturday following the World Cup

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You won’t have to wait too long after the final World Cup game of Saturday to get more soccer.

Major League Soccer is back with a busy night of fixtures.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Here are some 1-2 liners to get prepared for what’s in store.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET

Carl Robinson’s rising visitors will hope the inconsistent side of the Union hits the field in Pennsylvania.

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 6 p.m. ET

Dallas’ seven-match unbeaten run includes four-straight wins, but RBNY has not lost at home since late April.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando has not gained a point of its last available 18, while Montreal is slowly finding form.

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western leaders host a Houston side with a tough 1-3-3 mark away from home.

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United — 9 p.m. ET

Two-win Colorado has been much better at home than away, and the Loons can’t afford to give the Rapids win No. 3 if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10 p.m. ET

Real has won six of seven at Rio Tinto, and San Jose has just two wins this season (So, MLS rules dictate this will go in the Quakes’ win column).

Seattle Sounders vs. Chicago Fire — 10 p.m. ET

The Sounders’ awful season gets a Chicago with points in five of six.

LAFC vs. Columbus Crew — 10:30 p.m. ET

Traveling across the country without Carlos Vela and beating a very solid Crew side is asking a lot of Bob Bradley‘s expansion side.


Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers — 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Gio Savarese has manufactured some fine away performances for Portland, but this is a long flight and a tall ask in a possible MLS Cup Final preview.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET Sunday

TFC has yet to climb back into the East’s Top Six, but will like its chances to make a statement against Patrick Vieira-less NYCFC on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Spurs’ Son scores sensational consolation goal for South Korea

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South Korea has not had a good World Cup, but the Taegeuk Warriors have a fine goal for their tournament highlight reel.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son was frustrated by Mexico’s stifling defense for most of the day, but El Tri had little hope of stopping his stoppage time stunner.

Son took a lay-off and then used a pick into his yard of space to rip into a shot in the third minute of extra time.

South Korea must hope for Germany to beat Sweden, then for Mexico to beat Sweden while it beats Germany and builds goals for tiebreakers.

As unlikely as that is, at least Son had this moment.

Lozano, Vela keep Mexico rolling

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Mexico is nearly onto the knockout rounds with plenty of time to spare.

Carlos Vela converted a PK and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez also scored in a 2-1 win over South Korea on Saturday in Rostov-on-Don.

Heung-Min Son buried a shot in stoppage time for South Korea’s goal.

El Tri got another decent performance from Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who also scored Mexico’s goal in a 1-0 win over Germany.

A Swedish win or draw against Germany at 2 p.m. ET moves Mexico onto the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

A handball allowed Vela his chance from the spot, and Mexico had its lead after 26 minutes.

Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa made several decent stops for Mexico in the win, though South Korea were admittedly wasteful in the final third.

Lozano then cued up Mexico’s insurance goal from Chicharito, who danced around a defender before bounding a ball home.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Son scored a beautiful goal in the third minute of stoppage time to put South Korea on the board.

Hazard hails red-hot Lukaku after Belgian blowout

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Belgium was lethal for the second-straight game, mostly doing as it wished in toppling Tunisia 5-2 in Moscow.

The win comes on the heels of a 3-0 defeat of Panama, and “Big Rom” has been the man for the Red Devils.

[ RECAP: Belgium 5-2 Tunisia ]

Romelu Lukaku has four goals in two games, and was a force against Tunisia. His two-goal performance could’ve been four, the highlight a perfectly-timed run to chip home his second off a feed from Thomas Meunier.

Eden Hazard also scored twice, once from the penalty spot, and he marveled at his mate.

“It’s easy to play with Romelu Lukaku, pass him the ball and he scores every time. He was fantastic.”

Belgium advances to the knockout rounds, and will face England in its final match (likely with the group on the line). The winner of the group gets the runner-up of Group H with Japan, Senegal, Poland, and Colombia, and the second place team plays the winner.

“This game we won so we are happy today. We played well and scored five goals. We conceded two, we can improve on that but now we enjoy the next four days and then we play England for the top of the group.”

The England-Belgium match is Thursday in Kaliningrad.