Stuart Holden's career is officially over. The 30-year-old has announced that he will put his comeback attempt behind him and enter his post-playing career.
Holden was one of the United States' top prospects, coming through their U-20 and U-23 teams before making a name for himself at the club level with the Houston Dynamo. A productive stint in MLS earned him a move to Bolton Wanderers, where he became a starter for the club in the Premier League and made the Americans' 2010 World Cup team.
Unfortunately, injuries put a halt to his career after that. He suffered a broken leg from a nasty tackle in a friendly for the U.S. prior to the 2010 World Cup and while he returned in time for the trip to South Africa, the injuries wouldn't go away. Jonny Evans' awful tackle opened up a giant gash and broke his leg in March of 2011 and he missed another six months. He played in one match after returning, only to then need further surgery on his knee that would keep him out six more months. Holden finally got back on the field for the U.S. at the 2013 Gold Cup, but he tore his ACL there.
Over the last couple years, Holden has been doing all he can to play again. He's rehabbed and had a short stint with Sheffield Wednesday. He spent the last few months working out with MLS players and even trained with the U.S. in January camp, but that will be it for him.
Holden's career is a giant "what if" for U.S. fans. He was named Bolton's Player of the Season in 2010-11, when he missed the last two months of the campaign because of Evans' tackle. He looked like the skillful central midfielder that the Americans have long looked for. But then it all fell apart, as reckless tackles and bad luck put an end to Holden's career.
Holden announced his retirement on USSoccer.com, where he wrote a letter. In it, he said that his wife went in labor right as he started writing it and then at the hospital, when his daughter was born, there was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.
And yet, retirement isn't easy, as Holden learned.
It’s time to stop fighting my body. I’ve known for a while, but I’ve struggled to admit it to myself and to others. The countless sleepless nights, the aches and pains, and the constant mental battles were all signs pointing to a new path. But every time I was about to utter the three big words "I am retired", all the memories of walking into roaring stadiums, scoring last-minute goals, and being part of amazing teams dragged me back! The same never-say-die attitude that drove me to fight like hell my entire career wouldn’t let me say the "R word". I met every setback - and there were many - with a positive attitude. I responded to every disappointment with an "OK. What’s next?"
What's next for Holden is his daughter. It is also a company of soccer camps that he works on with Landon Donovan and Brian Ching. Hopefully, his future also includes more work as an analyst and personality, which he has been doing over the last couple years for Fox and ESPN. He's already shown his potential there and is as likable a person and you will find.
Holden's career was tough to watch. It must have been even tougher for him to deal with. But all in all, things appear to be looking up for Holden and his family. Hopefully that continues because someone who is as well-liked as he is, and worked as hard as he did, and was as positive as he was, deserves great things.
Best of luck, Stu.