Holden and Jones provide a boost to the U.S. team's midfield options
CHESTER, Pa. --
Becoming a regular in a Premier League lineup after going through a tough, mentally grueling stretch of almost six months will do that to a player.
Holden has fully regained his fitness after suffering a broken leg on an ill-timed
"Starting seven games this year in the Premier League and coming into the national team, I wanted to show that I could play a big role for this team as well," Holden said after the Americans' 0-0 draw with Colombia at PPL Park on Tuesday. "I was a little disappointed that I didn't play more at the World Cup, and now I'm playing at peak fitness and confidence. I feel good out there.
"Everyone knows soccer is a bit of a confidence game. Playing week in and week out, and playing for a manager that encourages you and allows you to express yourself on the field, I feel like that's showing in my play."
It most certainly is. Holden's 90-minute stretch against Poland was arguably his most complete performance in a U.S. jersey.
Playing on the right in coach
Holden -- and the whole U.S. team, for that matter -- struggled trying to adapt to the experimental 4-3-3 formation against Colombia, which was evident by players seeming a bit uncomfortable and out of position and Holden and senior-team newcomer
Like the mark of any inform attacker, though, Holden still found a way to contribute despite the U.S.' stagnant offense.
The most dangerous chance for the United States in the first half came on a well-struck free kick from about 30 yards out, one that curled and sank with perfect pace into the heart of the U.S. group of players in the box. Although
"I'm going to ask Landon to let me take a few more when he gets back," Holden deadpanned.
"Obviously Landon is good at set pieces, but if I can be a contributor on that end and whip them in from the sides and we can have a bit of a different look ... It's something I've worked hard on in training, and the set piece can be the difference in the game sometimes."
When Donovan returns, he'll most assuredly resume his set-piece duties, but Holden likely impressed enough to lay claim to a starting midfield job for the foreseeable future, assuming Bradley maintains a five-man midfield.
"I play centrally for Bolton, and I love it there, but I know on the national team, midfield is one of our strongest positions and I'm best suited out wide with this team," Holden said. "At the same time, it's a position that requires you to come inside and find the ball, and I'm comfortable doing that as well."
With Donovan on the left,
Another big winner out of the U.S.' two friendlies in the past week was one of the newcomers, Jones.
The FC Schalke 04 midfielder, born in Germany to an American father and German mother, earned his first two caps and was a huge hit with his teammates and soccer writers alike. He was fearless at entering challenges, and his never-ending, box-to-box motor ran for 90 minutes and mimicked that of his partner in the center of the field, Michael Bradley. Jones, who played 90 minutes against both Poland and Colombia, displayed a willingness to move forward in the attack while also being cognizant of leaving the defense exposed.
"Jermaine's fit in well with this group since Day 1," Holden said. "We weren't sure how it was going to work out with the language barrier, but his English is great, he's a great guy off the field, and that translates to his play on the field.
"We saw against Poland the qualities that he brings to this team in the way he battles and still can pick out a pass and get forward in the box."
On two instances, once against Poland and again in the match with Colombia, Jones launched perfectly weighted long passes to an in-stride
"He's a good player, he has good technique and he's able to make those passes," Altidore said. "He's talented. I'm happy that he's here and it's been a pleasure playing with him."
That's not to say there isn't room for improvement.
Jones, who turns 29 next month, plays with a tenacity that leaves him susceptible to receiving fouls and cautions. He's also still not familiar with the team's style of play, something that develops over time while playing with the same group of players on the international stage.
"I thought that his mentality is quite good," coach Bob Bradley said. "He's a competitor. I've said all along that I thought that would fit well into the way we do things."
As for the few Americans Abroad in action on the club circuit over the past 10 days, here's how they fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):