Recently, TSG had the opportunity to email some questions to Stu Holden. One question we asked him is, “How did you develop such a good first touch on the ball and ability in possession?”
While we await that answer and others from The Kilted One, let’s delve into just why Bob Bradley needs to find more room in the rotation for players with the skills of Stu Holden and TSG favorite Benny Feilhaber.
Feilhaber and Holden possess a rather unique ability among U.S. players to…well…possess…the ball that is. They not only understand the value of possession, from how subtle positioning of the ball on their foot–whether it’s instep or the inner arch to continuous motion with the ball in their possession can virtually unlock offensive opportunities and change the entire complexion of the field: new passing lanes are opened, new runs opened up, etc.
The second component of possession, putting the ball in motion, is perhaps the single most misunderstood and neglected skill set in soccer. By putting the ball in continuous motion, the defense has no choice but to react, they know not where the next movement will come from–a defender is thinking “defend” not “takeaway.”
And continually that defender is now at risk and has lost whatever upperhand they may have had.
Take a look here (9 minute mark of the clip) at the second goal from the Americans against Spain in this year’s Confederation Cup semifinal. A long square ball is played to Benny Feilhaber with the opportunity for Benny to drive to the goal.
Because Benny is comfortable with his possession and keeps the ball in continuous motion, he’s able to effectively stall and slot a pass to Landon Donovan who is trailing off his right foot. Feilhaber, before the pass, is clearly in a threatening position, but the defense is sitting there, reacting, because of Benny’s subtle continuous motion with the ball. As we now know, Donovan laces a shot unimpeded that Clint Dempsey then pokes in for the 2-0 lead. All of this, compliments of Benny Feilhaber’s solid work in possession.
Stu Holden as well possesses this gift of skill as we saw in the Gold Cup.
The U.S. in the top tier and mid tier tournaments this year continually suffered from a lack of possession maintenance. It’s up to Bob Bradley to find room in his midfield rotation to balance out the defensive middies (Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, etc) with the threat of the offensive creation of Benny Feilhaber and hopefully with a little more maturity Stu Holden as well.