That optimism was dashed when the doctor showed up on Holden’s doorstep the next day. A second straight major injury, this one a broken bone in his left knee that required surgery. Out six months. Season over. No Gold Cup.
The 25-year-old midfielder, who had been enjoying a standout season with the Bolton Wanderers and is seen as a key component to the future of the U.S. men’s national team, began the round of phone calls to family and friends. As he did, each conversation grew harder. Finally, he broke down.
“I felt bad for myself and felt sorry for myself,” Holden said. “And was like, ‘Oh God, things were going so well.’ After I had that moment, the next day I was all about, ‘All right, let’s get the surgery, let’s get moving, let’s get going forward.’ Because every day is a step closer to playing.”
Holden’s ever-present smile was back last Friday at one of his final rehabilitation sessions in the United States, interrupted only briefly by a determined grimace when he pushed through exercises.
In a clinic tucked away inside a Jewish community center here, Holden continued the progress he has made with U.S. men’s national team trainer James Hashimoto to return from the devastating tackle that ended his breakout campaign with Bolton. The injury also postponed what Holden had hoped would be a similar coming-out with the U.S. national team in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Holden said the injury was so severe that a screw was inserted into his knee during the surgery. He was on crutches for 12 weeks and couldn’t put any weight on the knee.
Now, although Holden is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, according to Hashimoto, the midfielder isn’t willing to rush back to the field until he’s ready. Holden originally set mid-September as a return target — exactly six months after the injury — but he might not be back in action until October.
Road back takes hard work
Last Friday, Holden showed off some of his progress.
Doing stretching and manual therapy on a training table, Holden worked to strengthen the muscles around the injury. After more than 30 minutes on the table — with Holden’s requested country music soundtrack playing in the background — he moved to an anti-gravity treadmill, where he alternately walked and jogged while applying varying levels of weight on the knee.
“Getting the swelling down and range of motion is number one [priority],” Hashimoto said. “This type of injury you’re always walking a thin line of how much is too much, and how much is too little. You want to get stuff going in the right direction but you don’t want it to slow you down.”
Rehabilitation sessions have become an unwelcome chore for Holden, as evidenced by his vast collection of scars.