Stuart Holden’s Situation

Stuart Holden’s Situation

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On January 5, 2010
  • Geoff Reid, Stuart Holden

By now we’ve all all read and heard about the decision that Houston Dynamo attacking midfielder Stuart Holden has to make: Should he sign a new contract with the MLS and stay in Houston on a much better one then he has had the last few seasons, or taking the next step to get to the promised land of where the world’s best compete on a weekly basis? It’s the same dilemma that every young player has anywhere in the world.

Holden’s case is perhaps the most intriguing on any young American player in quite some time. First of all, being born in Scotland and holding duel citizenship opens doors without having to unlock any of them, especially in the British Isles where foreign players coming into the UK must provide the Home Office proof of having played in 75% or more national team games over the course of a calender year to obtain a work permit. Just ask Brad Friedel how many times he got turned down before finally getting accepted.

The second question would be where would a good destination be for him where he can improve his career? The club he’s played for the last few seasons certainly have an argument where arguably the best playing environment in MLS is in Houston under Dominic Kinnear and John Spencer. Not to mention Houston is where his family is based currently and is his hometown. But has MLS and the Dynamo taken him as far as they can? Would he improve if he went to the SPL to play for Rangers or Aberdeen? Don’t count on it, as the SPL is currently losing respectability on the global stage. Even the old firm clubs are struggling to attract top talent anymore. Would he improve if he signed with a club in the EPL? Depends on the environment. Currently on trial at Burnley initially looked like a smart play, but with Owen Coyle all but guaranteed to move to local rivals Bolton Wanderers depending on how quickly a compensation package can be arranged by both clubs, it makes the situation a little more stickier. Another Lancashire club, Blackburn Rovers were linked with Holden, but it is to be believed that was no more then English tabloid talk which we all know the English tabloids are about as truthful as OJ Simpson under oath.

Another question that remains is would any clubs on mainland Europe take a serious look at him in this very short transfer window? One of the problems with MLS players looking to move overseas this time of year is yes there are a lot of dealings going on by clubs to bring players in, but most of the activity takes place during the summer months in the off season, just as MLS has reached it’s mid season point. Landon Donovan has pretty much got all his bases covered only signing a short 10 week loan period on Merseyside with Everton, where if he impresses before heading back to southern California and continues to impress through the world cup, new options will arise and good offers will come in for him. If the loan period doesn’t go as planned, he still has a guaranteed contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy. It is to be believed with the new and improved contract Donovan signed, the league will listen to serious offers for him. Figure if Jozy Altidiore got sold for $10 million, Donovan would go for more given his age and experience. But with Holden, he is essentially a free agent and while that has it’s numerous advantages, sometimes things do not go as planned and while the Dynamo would keep him in a heartbeat if they could, they have to plan to do what’s best for the team and that could potentially be without Holden so he could end up in a place and environment where he’s not totally comfortable.

Holden will also be analyzing other players that have gone to Europe and have been successful and not so successful. Things have not worked out for Freddy Adu, Eddie Johnson or Jozy Altidiore thus far. Then of course you have players that are fellow MLS Alumni who have had success like Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley after taking that chance. Some have been in between like DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu. Beasley has had trouble with injury which has led to dips in form, but no doubt when healthy and full of confidence has done well at PSV Eindhoven under Guus Hiddink, and in spurts at Rangers. Maurice Edu caught a break when former Rangers player and captain Barry Ferguson decided to shoot his career in the foot, and took the opportunity with both hands before injury has held him back.

So by looking at all the angles, it’s a risk at every point. It is a risk if Holden stays in MLS because his game might not develop any further, yet it might progress if he stays in Houston. It is a risk to try Europe and test the waters for sure. But it all comes back to the same problem that exists in MLS: you just can’t compete with the history, culture, tradition and money of European football. South American clubs can’t even hold on to their best players. If you are in Holden’s situation, don’t you want to aim for the very top? In his profession the very top is in Europe, where the world’s best compete week in, week out. What is also an extra question mark is that this is a world cup year. Right now, Holden seems to be a lock for at least the final 23 in Bob Bradley’s squad, barring injury or significant loss of form. He has a chance to start with Charlie Davis’ situation still up in the air, especially if Clint Dempsey gets moved up top. You figure if he stays in Houston, there will be much more of a chance to keep that national team place locked up. That way, if he has a good world cup, good offers will come in and better ones since it will be the summer and that’s when European clubs do most of their business anyway.

Whatever decision Holden makes, it will not be without risk.

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears each week on Feel free to leave him your thoughts and comments below.