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Five promising USMNT players whose careers were derailed by Injuries

A look at notable 21st century USMNT players and what could have been.

CONCACAF Cup - USA v Haiti Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It seems that all too often talented players burst on to the scene and then suffer serious injuries. Here’s a look at five players since 2005 (with a least one senior national team appearance) whose USMNT careers were disrupted, if not ended by chronic injuries.

Stuart Holden

While Stuart Holden played 26 times for the national team, scoring three goals, his career was cut short by a variety of injuries. Holden’s problems started as soon as he signed a professional contract in 2005. While then a member of Sunderland, he was ruled out for several months due to eye injuries after being attacked outside a bar. After recovering, he missed the rest of the season with an ankle injury picked up in training. At the end of the campaign Holden was released and signed with the Houston Dynamo.

From 2006-2010 Holden was relatively injury free. His good form with Houston led to him signing for Premier League side Bolton Wanderers in January 2010. He also was called up for a March USMNT friendly against the Netherlands in which his leg was broken by a brutal Nigel De Jong challenge. Despite the seriousness of the injury, he made a quick recovery and appeared for the U.S. during the 2010 World Cup.

Holden’s second season with Bolton ended after a brutal Jonny Evans’ tackle broke his femur. He returned to the pitch for the 2011-2012 season, but after several games it was discovered that he had cartilage damage in his knee. As a result, Holden missed the majority of the season and was unable to help Bolton avoid relegation.

Holden returned to the Bolton first team in January 2013 and was named to the USMNT 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup squad. However, he tore his ACL just 23 minutes into the Gold Cup final against Panama. Holden missed almost the entire 2013-2014 season for Bolton, but his lone appearance of the season (with the reserve team) resulted in a knee injury requiring surgery. This setback marked the end of his career and he officially retired in 2016.

Joe Gyau

Joe Gyau was a talented winger with good dribbling skill and quick acceleration. After signing his first professional deal in 2011, Gyau spent several years playing in the 2. Bundesliga. He later joined Borussia Dortmund primarily featuring for the club’s U-23 and reserve teams. Gyau started twice for the USMNT, appearing in two 2014 friendlies shortly after making his first team debut with Dortmund. During his second start for the U.S., Gyau tore his lateral meniscus early in the first half.

After this injury, he was plagued by numerous knee problems. Gyau is now 25 and currently playing for SG Sonnenhof Großaspach in the German 3. Liga (third division). He had five goals and four assists in 28 starts for the team this season, but missed the last five league games due to a muscle fiber injury.

Josh Gatt

Similar to Gyau, 26 year old Josh Gatt was a promising winger gifted with unbelievable pace. Gatt signed with Molde FK of Norway in 2011 and made his first senior national team appearance during a November 2012 friendly. Starting in July 2013 and up until his 2017 MLS season, with the Colorado Rapids, Gatt was plagued by chronic knee injuries. He is currently a free agent after featuring primarily as a substitute for the Rapids last season.

While he may not be the player he was once touted to be, Gatt showed glimpses of talent during the 2017 MLS season. He would surely like to find a new club, but he has other pressing concerns to deal with. His wife is dealing with thymic carcinoma (cancer in the thymus, a small organ in the upper chest). Best of luck to Josh Gatt and like many others, I hope he finds a team soon and that his wife beats cancer.

Charlie Davies

Davies has had arguably the worst luck of any player on this list. In 2009, he was a rising star playing for Ligue 1 side Sochaux. That same year he became a USMNT regular. Unfortunately, his career changed forever after a 2009 car accident. Davies was one of two passengers in a car driven by a drunk woman. Davies was lucky to be alive, as he suffered severe injuries and the other passenger was killed. He missed the 2010 World Cup while recovering, but incredibly returned to the pitch during a 2011 loan to D.C. United.

Davies played well during this loan, but in subsequent seasons it became clear that he was no longer the player he once was. The accident robbed Davies of his blistering pace and he never made another USMNT appearance. He retired earlier this year and one must wonder what could have been if he was never in that accident.

Aron Johannsson

Since the 2012/2013 season, Aron Johannsson has struggled mightily with injuries. He has only made 19 appearances for the USMNT since his 2013 debut, largely due to his health problems. Just as it looked like Johannsson was finally back in shape and playing well for Werder Bremen he was forced to pull out of the U.S. squad for the match against Paraguay due to a “minor leg injury”. He returned to the pitch this past weekend, playing 19 minutes in a substitute appearance for Bremen. At 27, he is likely in the prime of his career and could feature for the U.S. in the 2022 World Cup.

Let us know in the comments which players you think should have had better careers.