Stuart Holden is the kind of player who would serve as a cautionary tale among professional athletes. In his entire career, he didn’t do anything wrong and had the potential to be a superstar of U.S. Soccer. Circumstances beyond Holden’s control effectively ended his playing career.
Holden officially retired on Wednesday, after years of constant injuries to his knees and legs. Holden hadn’t played regularly since 2010 and not since 2014, but held out hope he could come back one day. After turning 30 back in August and celebrating the birth of his daughter this past Tuesday, Holden felt the time was right to formally announce his retirement.
At one point, Holden was a future star with unlimited potential. Trying to get his career started, at 20, Holden signed with Sunderland but didn’t play a game. He returned to the United States and played for the Houston Dynamo where he experienced his best success. Holden scored 15 goals in four years and won two MLS Cups with Houston.
In 2010, Holden went back to England, this time with Bolton. It was at Bolton as well as the USMNT that spelled the beginning of the end of Holden’s career.
While on duty with the USMNT, Holden got his leg broken on a challenge by Nigel de Jong in March 2010. Despite the setback, Holden recovered in time to play for the United States in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he played the final five minutes of the USA/England game.
Holden got his leg broken again about a year after it was originally broken, this time by Manchester United’s Jonny Evans. This injury was much more serious and Holden was out six months. This began a stretch of terrible injury luck. After coming back from his broken leg, Holden had to undergo more surgery and face another six months out after only playing a single game.
Eventually, Holden came back in 2013 but after just six months of playing, he tore his ACL. When he came back in March 2014, he reinjured his knee after 20 minutes of play and never played again.
To have been given this kind of a raw deal, Stuart Holden adjusted to his post playing career much smoother than the normal pro athlete when their career met a premature end. Holden tried his hand at commentary and started working at FOX, covering soccer games in the studio. As the months went on and Holden was less and less likely to play anymore, he slowly evolved into a great analyst and that became his main job.
Now, as Stuart Holden and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, it was time for Holden to officially enter the next chapter of his career, being a dad and soccer analyst.
Stuart Holden’s career was filled with unfulfilled potential and reminded everybody of some dark realities of being a professional athlete that sometimes gets taken for granted by players as well as fans. A professional athlete’s career can change instantly and sometimes is beyond their control. You never know when that career could be over and have to quickly plan the next chapter. It may not have been Stuart Holden’s original plan to retire at 30 after not playing for a couple years, but he seems happier than ever now as he fulfills a second career as well as starting a family and I wish him all the best.