WAG of the Week: Karalyn West

West-Legs

Why is there a ZZ Top song in our heads right now?

Long-suffering U.S. and Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden is set to continue his (latest) comeback this weekend in fourth-round FA Cup action against Everton and U.S. keeper Tim Howard. (American defender Tim Ream should also feature in the match for Bolton.)

It’s been a long road back for Holden, and hopefully he stays injury-free this time. But what ever happens in the former Houston Dynamo man’s immediate future, things can’t get too bad so long as he has Ms. West (left) in his life.

Holden, as we recently recounted, had been sidelined by injuries for 16 months before returning to Bolton earlier this month. When he was knocked out of action, he had been playing extremely well and appeared to be on course to become a first-choice player for the U.S. national team.

That team could still use an in-form Holden as the final round of World Cup qualifying kicks into gear in February.

But let’s get back to Ms. West, a Columbus, Ohio, native who appeared on Project Runway in 2004.

Here she is again:

KWest

 

Happy Friday, all.

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Stuart Holden Is Back—“For Good this Time,” He Says

StuBoat!

Stuart Holden, the Sisyphus of U.S. Soccer, has rolled the boulder to the top of the mountain yet again.

The 27-year-old midfielder returned to action yesterday, playing for Bolton’s first team for the first time since March 2011, when he suffered a gruesome knee injury after sliding into a challenge with Manchester United defender Jonny Evans.

Holden came on for the final 16 minutes of Bolton’s 2-0 win over Premier League side Sunderland in a third-round FA Cup replay. The victory put Bolton in the FA Cup fourth round for the fourth consecutive season, but for Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman, the sweetest part of the evening was seeing Holden take the field in the 74th minute. Here he is talking to BBC Radio Manchester:

“He’s a battler and a winner. When he came on the field, I was so delighted. He’s got a long way to go, but he knows that this club are fully behind him.”

Having a long way to go is nothing new for Holden, who’s battled a series of injuries so ill-timed and so frustrating they’d have put a lesser player in a rubber room.

In March 2005, having recently signed with Sunderland out of Clemson University, Holden was attacked on the street by a Newcastle fan for the offense of being a Sunderland player in public. The sucker punch left him with a fractured eye socket and sidelined him for two months. When he returned to training, he promptly injured his ankle, missed the rest of the season, and left England, his Sunderland foray over after just six months.

Following an increasingly successful stint with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, Holden returned to the Premier League in January 2010, signing with Bolton after a monthlong trial. He quickly won a starting spot on the team and started producing breakout performances.

He was called into the U.S. national team for a March 2010 friendly against the Netherlands, with an eye toward cracking the U.S. starting lineup for South Africa 2010. But a reckless challenge from Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong in that game broke Holden’s leg and put him on the shelf for for six weeks. He worked his way back, and was named to the U.S. World Cup side, but without enough recovery time under his belt, he saw minimal playing time at the tournament.

No matter: Holden finished 2010 strong for Bolton, and was rated the best midfielder—scratch that, best player—of the first half of the Premier League season by Guardian readers.

The second half of the season was sailing along just as well, with Bolton in seventh place in the league (and in the FA Cup semifinals), when Holden collided with Evans, whose spikes left a gash in Holden’s knee that required 26 stitches to close. The blow also tore his anterior cruciate ligament and put Holden out of action for six months. Without him, Bolton finished the 2010-11 season in 14th place. He missed the final two months of the season, but Holden was still named Bolton’s Player of the Year.

He returned to action in September 2011, but after playing 90 minutes against Aston Villa in the League Cup (and being named Man of the Match), he was ordered to undergo an arthroscopic follow-up procedure that would sideline him for six weeks. When that procedure revealed cartilage damage, the club announced that Holden would need further surgery and would have to miss six more months. Bolton, meanwhile, was relegated following the 2011-12 season—their first time below the top flight in 11 years.

So yesterday’s appearance—his first in 16 months—was a big deal, for Holden, for Bolton, and for the U.S. national team, which begins the final round of qualifying for Brazil 2014 next month.

All of the above are hoping that Holden’s tweet this morning—that he’s “back for good this time”—holds true.

 

 

 

Tim Ream Will Square Off Against Clint Dempsey Tomorrow

Since his arrival from MLS’s New York Red Bulls in late January, U.S. defender Tim Ream has quietly and quickly played his way into the starting lineup at Bolton, helping the club climb out of the relegation zone.

He’s played against both Chelsea and Manchester City in the past three months, as Wanderers have inched from 19th to 16th in the Premier League. But they’re still just one point above the drop, and that makes every game of the stretch run crucial—including this week’s match against visiting Fulham.

For Ream, the encounter has the added wrinkle of being the first time he’ll face fellow U.S. national teamer Clint Dempsey in a competitive game.

Dempsey is in the midst of arguably the greatest season ever by an American outfield player, with 13 Premier League goals and 19 across all competitions. (He also had one goal dubiously disallowed for rebounding in off the goalkeeper.)

Ream recently spoke to U.S. Soccer about tomorrow’s match, the adjustments he’s had to make to compete in the Premier League, and Fabrice Muamba. Below are some highlights. Click here for the entire interview.

On the primary differences between the Premier League and MLS:

“There are a couple. The biggest one is the talent all over the field at every position, no matter who you play. Obviously there are talented guys in MLS, but you don’t have the talent at every single position like you do here. You play the Man Citys and the Chelseas, they have a quality international player at every spot. That’s definitely a big difference. And then the speed of play. It’s different, but it’s not as crazy of a difference as most people would think. Physically, I’ve had to step that up another notch and continue to improve upon that because that’s what got me last year was not being physical enough. That’s something that I’ve learned and something that I continue to have to work on.”

On what it would mean for Ream and Bolton to shut down Dempsey tomorrow:

“It’s something that I’ve definitely thought about the last couple days. It’s not just going to be me. It’s going to take a real team effort to shut him down and to shut their team down. I’ll get a lot of pointers, even though I’ve played with him multiple times. The guys that play around me have played against him more and I think you learn more from playing against him and knowing what he does in the run of play than you do playing with him…. So I think it will be a big sense of pride if we can shut him down and shut the team down and come away with three points.”

On settling in so quickly with Bolton:

“Yeah [I feel good about it]. It’s hard for a player when you’re used to playing every game and then you come to a team and you don’t play. I’ve been very fortunate that in my time in New York I was able to step right in. Now coming here, I feel really good about my play and I feel great that I’ve been able to step in and contribute to the team and help us get out of relegation at the moment. I’m definitely happy, and a little bit surprised. But at the same time I know what I’m capable of, and I knew coming in here that I’d be able to help the team out and step in and help win games.”

Fox Soccer has the Bolton–Fulham match on tape-delay at 5:00 pm ET tomorrow.

Fulham 2, Bolton 0: Dempsey Hits Third Goal in Four Games

Somebody get Brad Friedel on the line for a comment: U.S. attacker Clint Dempsey powered in a 33rd-minute header to give Fulham a 1-0 lead over Bolton at Craven Cottage on Sunday, netting his third goal in four games, his eighth of the season in all competitions and the 38th of his Premier League career, which is the record for U.S. players in the EPL.

Less than two minutes after his goal, Dempsey sprung teammate Bryan Ruiz behind the Bolton defense, and the Costa Rican scored with a strikingly clever chip over Wanderers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to make it 2-0, and give Dempsey his fourth assist of the season.

It’s shaping up as a career year for the Texan, and yesterday’s win was an international blow struck for CONCACAF, as Dempsey (U.S.) and Ruiz (Costa Rica) provided all of the Cottagers’ offense. Ruiz assisted on Dempsey’s opener.

The three points moved Fulham (4-6-6), which was eliminated from the Europa League in midweek, up to 11th in the Premier League table as the halfway mark of the season approaches. Dempsey has scored in all four of the Cottagers’ wins this season.

Click here to watch the highlights.

Bolton remained in last-place with the defeat, but did get some good news today: American midfielder Stuart Holden returned to the club’s training facilities to continue his rehab from knee surgery.