If It Wasn’t for Bad Luck, Stuart Holden Wouldn’t Have No Luck At All

Yesterday, we posted about U.S. and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden’s latest setback, which was that he needed follow-up surgery on the knee he injured six months ago.

The initial word was that Holden would miss just six weeks of action following the procedure, but the news went from bad to worse after doctors began the operation late Wednesday night.

They discovered cartilage damage that will keep the 26-year-old midfielder sidelined for the next six months.

This latest blow is devastating for the player (and for Bolton and the U.S.), and it’s also part of a disturbing trend in Holden’s career, dating back to 2005, when he left Clemson University after his sophomore year to go on trial with Sunderland.

Let’s break down the bad breaks:

March 2005—Just weeks after joining Sunderland, Holden was attacked outside a bar in Newcastle and suffered a broken eye socket that kept him out of action for two months.

May 2005—Holden returned to training with the Black Cats, only to injure his ankle and miss the rest of the season.

March 2010—After establishing himself at Bolton and signing a new three-year deal with the club, Holden was set to play a big role for the U.S. at South Africa 2010. Then he had his leg broken by Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands in a March 3 friendly.

• March 2011—In the midst of his best season ever, Holden was consistently the highest-rated player for Bolton—until he clashed with Jonny Evans in a sliding tackle at Old Trafford on March 19. He suffered a torn ACL and a gash that required 26 stitches.

Sept 2011 —Eight days after returning from the six-month layoff for the knee injury … Holden was dealt this latest blow.

Stuart Holden—born under a bad sign.

Jozy Altidore Will Not Be Stopped

U.S. striker Jozy Altidore remains a man on a roll, scoring his seventh goal of the young season in AZ Alkmaar’s 1-1 tie with Norwegian Black Metal band Ukrainian side FC Metalist Kharkiv in Europa League action today.

The 21-year-old New Jersey native settled a pass with a great touch at the top of the box, then buried an expert finish into the far corner. Take a look:

Ever since he left MLS in 2008 for a record $10-million transfer fee, Altidore has been a handful for defenders in Europe, drawing fouls and creating space for teammates. He’s also improved at holding the ball up top as a target forward. But one element—a big one, for a forward—had been missing during his stints with Villareal, Hull City, and Bursaspor, and that was goal scoring.

He’s taking care of that aspect pretty well so far this season, and we might be seeing the realization of all the potential he showed in 2006, when he made his Red Bulls debut as a precociously strong 16-year-old.

CCL Roundup: LA Hits Dramatic Late Winner, Colorado Rolls, Dallas Stumbles (But Remains Very Much Alive)

Galaxy midfielder Juninho volleyed in a flick-on from Chad Barrett off a Landon Donovan corner kick in stoppage time last night to give Los Angeles a thrilling 2-1 win over Morelia in CONCACAF Champions League action at the Home Depot Center.

In El Salvador, the Colorado Rapids fielded a reserves-heavy squad against Isidro Metapan yet came away with a 3-1 win, while in Panama City, FC Dallas floundered to a 5-3 loss on a waterlogged pitch against Tauro FC.

• The Galaxy are now tied on nine points with Morelia—which would have advanced to the quarterfinals with a draw—and Costa Rican side Alajuelense, which hosts last-place Motagua of Honduras tonight.

Mike Magee opened the scoring for LA, slotting home a pass from overlapping defender Todd Dunivant. See highlights below:

Los Angeles wraps up the group stage at Motagua on Oct 20.

• Colorado got goals from rookie Eddie Ababio (in his professional debut) and veteran strikers Quincy Amarikwa and Omar Cummings to move into second place in Group B with seven points. The Rapids will need to beat group leaders Santos Laguna, on the road, on Oct 19 to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

• Despite two goals from academy product Ruben Luna, FC Dallas produced the worst performance of the three MLS teams in the CCL last night— yet the Hoops still have the clearest path to the quarterfinals. They host Toronto FC in their Group C finale on Oct 18 and can advance with a win or a tie. A win would put them directly into the quarters, while a tie and a loss or tie by Tauro FC against Pumas would do the same.

Here are the highlights from last night’s goalfest, which also featured two red cards for Dallas and one for Tauro:

This Week In Stuart Holden-Can’t-Catch-A-Break News…

U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden, who required 26 stitches and a knee operation after the above challenge with Manchester United’s Jonny Evans six months ago, has learned that he needs follow-up surgery and will miss an additional six weeks.

Club doctors had originally targeted next summer for the operation, but decided it needed to be moved up.

Holden had just returned from the initial injury, appearing in an FA Cup game against Aston Villa last Tuesday, with the Guardian writing of his performance:

“The visitors [Bolton] certainly looked the hungrier side in the early stages. Stuart Holden, making his return after six months out injured, looked as though he had never been away, and his distribution, along with Fabrice Muamba’s physicality, gave Bolton a clear edge in midfield, where Villa looked distinctly lightweight.”

Holden broke his leg in March 2010 after a nasty challenge by the Netherlands’ Nigel de Jong and saw limited playing time at South Africa 2010 as a result.

If there’s a silver lining in Holden’s bad luck with injuries, it’s the attitude he’s developed in response. Here he is on Twitter after the latest setback:

“Obviously I’m disappointed as I’ve worked so hard the last six months, but in the grand scale of things it’s only a minor blip.”

The blip will keep him out of the U.S.’s October friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador.

BPFL: Thinning the Ranks of the Unbeaten

Co-commissioner MGlo is here with another Backpost Fantasy League bulletin, and he has a bone to pick with his partner in crime, Our Man at the Valley.

Take it away, sir:

And then there were THREE!

While I didn’t get the full respect I deserved last week (someone is obviously disgruntled, though I won’t mention any numpties names…) as Performer of The Week and a member of a small top-of-the-table group, I am happy to report that the standings this week show only Old27m (ahem), coloradokeeper, and Ahmad Haziq Hashim remaining in the ranks of the unbeaten.

All three squads are a perfect 5-0-0, and all three had the injured Wayne Rooney as captain—yet still went on to beat their respective opponents. I personally enjoyed kicking the stuffing out of the Fluffy Bunnies (a 24-point win), while coloradokeeper slipped past mudheads by 3 points. A.H.H., with only 10 players, eked out a 1-point win over YourAdHere, a team still looking for their first point of the season and currently the bookmakers’ favorites to be relegated.

Gunters, RayDomPsychicAdvisor and Chelsea Chris are also looking for first wins of the season but have each managed a draw so far.

Falling from the unbeaten ranks this week were Useful Shot, That, who have dropped to fifth place, and were passed by Kimo’s—a team that opened the season with a draw but have rattled off four straight victories since then.

Performance of The Week: Herk City were this week’s winners with 69 points, riding a 26-point outburst by captain Robin van Persie. While only one Herk City defender earned a clean sheet, the other two played well enough to earn 2 bonus points each, with Jose Bosingwa picking up an assist.

David Silva added a clean sheet and an assist, while Luis Suarez chipped in with a goal and 3 bonus points.

Unlucky Loser: This goes to recently married Arsenal fan (there are just too many jokes here, so please insert your own) The Losers, whose 56 points were enough to beat 33 of the 40 other teams—but not DisgruntledNumpties, The Losers’ opponent this past week.

The Numpties’ fate came down to Sebastian Larsson’s performance for Sunderland and The Losers. Had Larsson not played, Aaron Ramsey’s 10 points would have kicked in for The Losers—and this paragraph would have been written the other way round!

So six weeks are in the books, with 32 more to go. By now you should have the hang of what you are doing, but if you have any questions, or would like to see your comments make the blog, feel free to email us at Jbackpost12@gmail.com with ‘BPFL’ in the subject.

Thanks, MGlo. Though you hate to see such squabbling in the league office so early in the season.

Speaking of local squabbles, the North London derby headlines this week’s Premier League action, as Tottenham hosts Arsenal on Sunday (11:00 a.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel).

The deadline for lineups this week is, as always, Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET. Good luck.

How Many MLS Teams Can We Get In the CCL Quarterfinals?

After last night’s action, we’ve got one in and four still alive. The league is not likely to place five clubs in the eight-team knockout stage, but three is a genuine possibility. Let’s take a look.

Seattle Sounders FC got two goals from the normally defensive-minded Osvaldo Alonso to tie Comunicaciones 2-2 in Guatemala City last night and clinch a spot in the CCL quarters.

The 25-year-old Cuban midfielder twice pulled his side level, hitting a bouncing volley off a goalmouth scramble just before halftime to make it 1-1, and punching in another in similar circumstances with one minute to play for the crucial final scoreline.

Highlights and postgame comments here:

The Sounders are in first place in Group D with a 3-1-1 record and can finish no worse than second place, regardless of what happens in their group-stage finale against Monterrey (3-2-0) next month.

The result is another highlight in what’s shaping up to be an excellent season for the Pacific Northwest side. The Sounders are headed to the MLS playoffs and have the second-best record in the league (15-6-9); they’ve reached the final of the US Open Cup—where they’ll be looking for their third straight title on Oct 4—and they’re in the CCL knockout stage.

Not bad for a club in just its third year of existence.

Toronto FC hosted UNAM Pumas last night, less than two weeks after the Mexican side had thrashed them 4-0, and just three days after MLS club Chivas USA blanked the Reds 3-0. To make matters worse, Toronto was missing three players, including Torsten Frings, due to suspension, and could not afford a loss if it was to keep its hopes of advancing alive.

It was close, and the Reds could twice thank the posts for keeping them in it, but Toronto hung on for a 1-1 tie against a reserve-heavy Pumas side.

Peri Marosevic took a nice layoff from Danny Koevermans to put Toronto up 1-0 in the 36th minute, and Marco Palacios tied it up for the visitors six minutes after the break.

Behold Pumas’s Diego De Buen rattling the upright from 30 yards in the highlights below:

Pumas now leads Group C with a 2-1-2 record and eight points while Toronto (2-2-1) is tied with FC Dallas for second with seven points.

Dallas plays at Panamanian side Tauro FC tonight (8:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel) with a chance to reclaim the top spot. The Hoops have just one goal in their last six games and have struggled to three straight MLS losses. But they did hit the woodwork three times in their most recent game, a 1-0 defeat to Houston on Saturday, and they’ve welcomed back winger Marvin Chavez from injury. Tonight would be a great time to bust out of their slump.

• Much like FC Dallas, Los Angeles jumped out to a fast start in CCL play but has faltered of late, dropping consecutive road games to Morelia (Mex) and Alajuelense (CR) to slip to third place in Group A. The Galaxy faces Morelia at the Home Depot Center tonight (10:00, FSC), and pretty much have to win to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive.

They’ll also be looking to avenge a controversial 2-1 loss to the Mexican side two weeks ago, when LA had a Robbie Keane goal incorrectly disallowed in the waning moments.

The Colorado Rapids are 1-2-1 in Group B and sending a mostly second-choice team to El Salvador for tonight’s matchup against Isidro Metapan (12:30 a.m., FSC, delay).

Metapan was blitzed 6-0 by Mexican side Santos Laguna in its last CCL game, but can clinch a spot in the quarters if it beats Colorado and Santos ties or beats Real Espana in Honduras.

So which of the remaining four MLS clubs will advance? (See current standings here.)

FC Dallas may have the clearest route. If the Hoops can defeat winless Tauro tonight, then they’d head into their final game, on Oct 18 against Toronto, needing only a draw to advance.

Los Angeles needs to beat Morelia at home tonight, a result that, assuming Alajuelense knocks off 0-0-4 Motagua tomorrow, would leave LA and Morelia tied for second with nine points and Alajuelense in first with 12.

The Galaxy faces last-place Motagua in Honduras in its group-stage finale, while Morelia hosts Alajuelense.

If LA wins out, and Morelia beats Alajuelense, the group would wind up with all three teams on 12 points, in which case the first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition between the three. The second tiebreaker is head-to-head goal difference, and the third is head-to-head away goals.

As for Toronto and Colorado, we’d say Dallas is too big an obstacle for the Reds in Group C, and the Rapids, who seem to have placed less of a priority on the CCL than the others, are the biggest longshot of the five MLS teams in the competition.

Name Hall of Fame: Fitz Hall

Queens Park Rangers’ rangy defender Fitz Hall joins such illustrious Name Hall of Famers as Bright Dike, Dilly Duka, and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, but not for his given name, interesting though it may be.

No, Fitz Hall makes the cut for his nickname, which is … wait for it … One Size.

Mr. Hall went the full 90 in QPR’s testy 1-1 draw with Aston Villa yesterday. Villa drew six yellow cards in the match, while QPR picked up a yellow and a red.

Did this impact your BPFL team? Tune in tomorrow for the latest fantasy bulletin from co-commissioner MGlo.

H/T to Our Man at the Valley.