The Beautiful Game
Very Friendly: It's a Cup of love as Dynamo face English Premier League team ona Holden high
We can only hope that Wednesday night's match between the Houston Dynamo and the Bolton Wanderers of the English Premier League isn’t as friendly as Tuesday's press conference was. The presser, which included Dynamo players Brian Ching and Brad Davis, and coach Dominic Kinnear, was a virtual love fest.
Local hero and former Dynamo midfielder — 25-year-old Stuart Holden — was the press conference’s star attraction, even though a leg injury from last season won't allow him to play Wednesday night at Robertson Stadium. He left the Dynamo after the 2009 Major League Soccer playoffs, and joined Bolton in 2010, but Tuesday he expressed a lot of love for both his old team and his old stomping grounds. He has said that he watches “every Dynamo game” via satellite, and that he’s looking forward to introducing his Bolton teammates to his favorite restaurants “in Midtown and on Washington.” He also said he's been following the construction of the new stadium "on webcam," and he wishes it were ready for tonight's game.
I hope that the smallish Holden, who has a Peter Pan look to him, doesn’t get so battered in England that he can’t return in glory to Houston in six or so years to finish out what will hopefully be a tremendous career.
But it was Holden's Scottish manager Owen Coyle who spread the goodwill the thickest. Before he spoke, Coyle had a dour Scots look about him (between Glasgow-born Kinnear, Coyle, and Aberdeen-born Holden, there was a strong Scottish connection behind the interview table), but he lighted up both when he remembered Kinnear’s playing days in Scotland, and when he praised the Dynamo specifically and U.S. soccer in general.
When Holden was asked what the MLS needed to do to close the gap between itself and the European leagues, Coyle jumped in to say “you’re being too hard on yourselves. The MLS is on the up. Its coaches could coach anywhere in the world.”
Coyle did suggest that the U.S. should find a way to “develop a youth system,” and have teams begin training players between 16 and 18 themselves, rather than relying on universities to produce the stars of the future.
Otherwise he suggested that U.S. soccer fans should be proud of what we have. He didn’t suggest, however, that Holden, his star player, would’ve been well served to stay home. Holden himself, while singing the MLS’s praises, and pointing out that big name players like Thierry Henry and David Beckham are now willing to play here, albeit at the ends of their careers, was quite clear that he had needed to go to England, home of “the best league in the world,” in order for his game to develop.
The idea of a love-fest was perhaps somewhat alien to Holden’s teammate, Bolton team captain Kevin Davies, who sat mostly silently at the table. Davies has played on the England national team, but he is chiefly noted for being among the hardest of the EPL’s hard men. Indeed, he’s committed more fouls than any player in the history of the EPL, and been on the receiving end of fouls almost as often.
Speaking of fouls, Holden is still on the mend from a season-ending knee injury last March. (The U.S. could’ve used him during the Gold Cup.) Despite missing the last two months of the season, Holden was still voted Bolton’s Player of the Year, and the team slid from a very respectable seventh place to 14th in his absence.
The previous season Holden was out for six weeks with a broken leg. During his first stint in England at age 19, he suffered an injury when he was attacked outside a bar in Newcastle, and eventually wound up returning home to join the Dynamo.
I hope that the smallish Holden, who has a Peter-Pan look to him, doesn’t get so battered in England that he can’t return in glory to Houston in six or so years to finish out what will hopefully be a tremendous career.
The Bolton match is the Houston Dynamo's third-annual Charities Cup match, the club's first ever against a European team. Part of the proceeds from the match will go to youth soccer programs in Houston's East End and part of the proceeds will go to a fund to help the car crash-orphaned Berry kids.
The match starts at 7:30 p.m and if it's tied after regulation a penalty kicks shootout will determine the winner. Tickets are still available.