January 2010

Stuart “Bolton” and Chuck D Thoughts

Cautious optimism is the term I’ve got to use in reacting to the latest news on two of the America’s most exciting young players. Yes, Stuart Holden is now a Premier League player after signing with the Bolton Wanderers. And yes, Charlie Davies’ recovery has him so far ahead of schedule that he’s eyeing not only the World Cup but even getting in some French Ligue 1 games this spring.

Good news all around, but don’t throw a party just yet. First take a closer look at both situations.

Holden: Signing with Bolton is a major step up from the MLS, but after being on trial with the club for a couple weeks Stu was only offered a four month deal. Four month loans that take another team’s player from the January transfer window through the rest of the European season with a team are pretty common, but Holden isn’t on a loan. The talented midfielder is out of contract with Houston and taking a big career risk by going to Bolton. I’m in favor of this risk, but it’s a risk nonetheless. The fact that the team only offered him a four month deal could mean that they were just impressed enough with what he did in training to take a flyer on him. All of us Stu Holden fans already have images dancing in our heads of him taking corners in the EPL and building awesome attacks at the Reebok Stadium, but the four month deal may mean that he’ll have to continue to prove himself in reserve team games before seeing the pitch in the world’s best domestic league. Couple that with the fact Bolton may be relegated to the English Championship at the end of the campaign and you can see why the decision to sign with the Wanderers was no easy one for Holden. But like most middle-round NFL draft picks this move has a ton of potential “up-side,” and Stu is embracing that.

Davies: First off, there’s no actual downside to Chuck D’s recovery going so well. That car crash was a tragedy and the man who’s lucky to be alive is almost certainly going to be able to play soccer again, something that was greatly in question a month or so ago. My concern with this situation is about managing expectations. Davies has thus far either hurdled or run straight through every recovery/therapy obstacle put in front of him. He’s months ahead of schedule and his determination is almost palpable upon just reading his comments. Today ESPN is going so far as to run the news of his thus far speedy recovery (and “expected return”) on their news ticker during SportsCenter. It’s easy for a fan to get caught up in the feeling of optimism and start high fiving everyone and saying, “You hear about Davies? Awesome huh!?” I’d just urge everyone to temper this optimism with a little pessimism; this is the USMNT after all and things usually gravitate more towards Murphy’s Law than fairy tales.

I hope Charlie’s recovery continues to rumble forward as it has been thus far, but there’s a big difference between where he is now and being ready to go full steam on a match day. From his perspective I completely understand the confidence. If you had just shattered medical recovery expectations for multiple severe injuries you’d have the self-confidence of Michael Jordan on angel dust too. From a fan’s perspective, the news on Davies is wonderful, but he’s not exactly scoring goals and complimenting them with a trademark hilarious dance just yet… not yet anyway. Simply put, the part of you who feared for the man’s life and livelihood can rest easy (and of course that’s most important), but the American soccer fan part of you should still be hoping against hope that the second half of Chuck D’s recovery goes as smoothly and as fast as the first.

Jon Levy