The worst fears regarding U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden's latest setback have been realized.
After attempting to return from an ACL tear with Bolton's U-21s last week, Holden lasted 22 minutes before being forced off the field with a knee injury. Hopes that it was a minor setback were quickly dashed Tuesday, when Bolton announced that Holden will miss the next 6-9 months after ligament surgery in his right knee -- the same knee in which he tore his ACL in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final against Panama last July.
The injury rules Holden, 28, out of contention for this summer's World Cup, and it sets him on yet another long-term comeback course, something that has defined his career.
Four years and a week ago, Holden's long-term injury woes began, when Nigel de Jong's horrific tackle in a Netherlands-USA friendly broke his leg. Holden recovered to make Bob Bradley's U.S. roster for the World Cup, though he was limited in his contributions, and he went on to enjoy success with Bolton, becoming the club's Player of the Season during its 2010-11 Premier League campaign.
That season was cut short by a Johnny Evans tackle in March 2011 that resulted in another long-term injury, the first of which Holden suffered to his knees -- though that was to his left knee. A follow up procedure to his knee that October revealed damage that required another long-term spell on the sidelines. About 15 months later, Holden returned to Bolton's reserves, working his way back onto the first team, then Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. radar and eventually earning a place on the Gold Cup roster, where he played for the U.S. for the first time in almost three years.
Holden, to his credit, remains upbeat, positive and downright inspiring in all of his public responses to his setbacks. Immediately after Bolton made its announcement, Holden made an important one of his own:
In better news excited to spend the rest of my life with you! @KaralynWest pic.twitter.com/3sYJjth8ALCongratulations Stu, and get well soon.
— Stuart Holden (@stuholden) March 11, 2014