Stuart Holden: “Max Out Player”

Update: Holden may sign with Bolton after a successful trial. Bolton manager Owen Coyle has liked what he’s seen so far.

Why doesn’t the MLS make Stuart Holden a designated player?  Actually, I’m sure they wish they could, so he’d be more inclined to stay, but it’s not going to be that easy. If there’s a player who’s earned to right to become a ‘max out player’ it’s Stuart Holden.

Stuart Holden

If there was a potential savior for the MLS, it would be Holden, and not that the MLS needs a savior. It’s just that it seems like they’re always looking for one. Holden is not Adu, he’s not Beckham, and he’s not Donovan. He’s potentially, perhaps all those players and a bit more. Holden loves the spotlight, and that’s just what the MLS needs. A player who can walk the walk and talk the talk.

Right now, Stuart Holden is the talk of the town, from Houston to New York to Seattle (at the MLS Cup there might have been more buzz around Holden’s status). Everyone is wondering if he’ll go back to Scotland and play for Aberdeen, join an English Premier League side, or stay in Texas with the Houston Dynamo. The overall consensus though is that Holden holds all the cards.

Truthfully, the MLS should let Holden go, and he should go for his own sake, otherwise he’s not going to develop as fast as he could as a player.  He’s the type of player who could fit in on any team since he knows how to play the game.  Simply put: he knows where to pass and where to run.  Could he make it in La Liga?  It would be interesting to see if he could.

In a way, he’s much like Clint Dempsey, but perhaps a better passer and possession player, although not as physically strong.  But both players can beat players on the dribble and create chances, and I think that’s what in the end all teams will pay big money for.

And the kid’s going to get paid.  It’s that simple.  His current teammate on the Dynamo, Brian Ching, makes $242,550 per year. So you’d have to say he’s going to make at least that much.  Extraordinarily, this past year Holden was only making $34,728.75.  Ching, his Twitter buddy, and his usual roommate on the road, was making nearly 7 times that much.  Was Ching buying Holden’s meals?  Why in the world did Holden ever agree to that low of a salary. How Houston felt comfortable paying him that little, is astounding. They must have given him some kind of bonus as he became a starter and a star of the team.

Yet, for Holden’s development as player, a lot of credit must go to Dominic Kinnear, Holden’s coach at the Dynamo, who traded away Dwayne De Rosario, and put his faith in Holden, making him the team’s play maker.  If there’s a reason to stay in the MLS it could reside in the team, the Houston Dynamo, who are one of the best clubs in the MLS.  If there ever was a dynasty in the MLS it’s this side.  They win and play good soccer.  Perhaps Holden is willing to reward the faith they put in him and play for the club for a few more years before going to Europe.  Plus, his family is lives in Houston.

Holden does have a number of unnamed offers on the table and has to make a decision soon.  And again, he belongs on a bigger stage there’s no question.  He’s got a certain flair and style of play, confident on the ball and a clever passer of the ball, all qualities that should make him an even bigger star.

What’s interesting though, is the MLS has been dead set on finding a player to rouse the interest of the American sports fan, going great lengths to sign a host of aging foreign stars.  They have had some success, certainly financially and in buzz with the signing of David Beckham, although there were doubters Beckham is a class player and that shown through, to soccer fans who know the game. Freddie Ljungberg more recently was proof that there are European stars who could do wonders for the MLS.

And they’ve signed numerous Latin stars, Blanco being probably the best of the whole bunch, as he’s an out and out pro who just wants to win, even at the age of 35 he was always creating chances for the Chicago Fire.  But the MLS have yet to have a star all their own that could be the face of the league.  There is of course Landon Donovan, but the 27 year old seems like an old veteran already, and he’s going to go on loan to Everton and I’m sure would like to stay in the EPL.

Stuart Holden is a player who has the personality and ability to grow into an all around MLS star and just might draw in more American soccer fans and fans in general. He could be the face of the MLS.  Jozy Altidore has personality but he’s in Europe.  Freddy Adu was the great hope but was perhaps just too young.  Stuart Holden, who is of Scottish decent, and played for Sunderland’s reserve team for a time after college at South Carolina, could light the MLS on fire if he stayed. He could finally be the savior the MLS they’ve always been seeking. However, can the and will the MLS keep him?

They are certainly going to try it looks like. The MLS commissioner, Don Garber, had a sit down meeting with Holden, and there’s talk he could become a “max out player,” meaning he can make $350,000 a year. I guess that’s how they get around naming him as a designated player. And the Dynamo would like to know soon where Holden will end up playing, since they need to fill his shoes if he leaves and plan accordingly.

But it’s not just his ability on the soccer field and with the ball that sets Holden apart from a lot of other players. The kid is born to be on TV and talk to reporters – he’s got some personality. He was even Charlie Davies partner on the stanky legg routine, or at least part of the warm up crew.

Moreover, Holden is passionate about the game and wants to get better, at just 24 years old, he’s got a maturity about him – he’s a professional. As he said in an interview, he enjoys watching the game and learning.

Players like Xavi and Iniesta, those guys at Barcelona. Their movement is unbelievable. I think if you look in the Confederations Cup, Spain probably did the least running of any team in the tournament. Their movement on and off the ball is so good.

Something else that makes Holden an attractive European target, he has duel European citizenship since he was born in Scotland. Just one more reason it will be hard for the MLS to keep him.

Another big reason the MLS would like to keep him, transfer fees. If the MLS doesn’t hold on to Holden, they stand to lose a ton of money, as he’s on a free transfer.

If Holden does sign an MLS contract for a few more years, what if he has an outstanding World Cup, it would be a boon for the MLS but a loss for Holden, as he’s then unable to turn that into a bigger payday abroad.  He’d have to wait.

So, Holden’s agent, the MLS, and his family have a lot to discuss, but in the end Holden will do all the talking since he’s done it on the field and earn the right to have his say and his big payday.