Counterpoint: Why Holden Should Stay?

Holden: Trying not to trip up on his big decision...

Have you seen TSG’s interview with Stu Holden earlier this year?

If not, definitely check it out.


For those who have been Christmas shopping, rumors are swirling that the MLS is going to the most extreme lengths to retain Stu Holden with further rumors suggesting that Holden has been offered a salary “bump” or more than 10x on his current wages, resulting in about $350 annually. This information appeared in Scotland’s premier rag however.

Let’s use this space today to consider the contrarian arguments for Stu Holden to remain in Dynamo orange to initiate the commentary and dialogue. Four positive points arise.

(First, a caveat in that we’ll assume that Stu can negotiate a one-year deal, or two max, with the MLS. Big caveat.)

First, Mr. Holden pockets a new paycheck.

Everyone reading this column is now wondering how I did on the math SATs.

While Holden can earn a significant chunk of peanuts in the MLS, he can virtually buy the whole peanut farm if he ships out.

Why, then,  does an MLS paycheck matter? For further leverage in negotiations overseas.

Right now Holden is coming from a position where he made slightly more (or less in some cases) than a starting journalist who does fact checking all day. If he’s considering negotiating abroad, he can’t very well say, “Well, I like your offer, but it’s not a huge premium on what I’m making now….” because it is. Pocketing an MLS paycheck at the rate rumored only enhances Holden’s leverage in a contract situation and gives him an out (next year) if he doesn’t like how negotiations are going with a prospective club.

World Cup 2010 Pitch Time

Holden is on record as saying inclusion and participation in the USMNT squad weighs heavily on both him and on this specific decision.

One of the larger factors facing the Iceman immediately overseas, is playing time. Will he walk right into a line-up or will he be relegated to the bench? Is there a predisposition to play locals?

Looking at Glasgow Rangers–one club he’s linked with–they’ve got Steve Davis, a former Villa young player of the year, on the right flank and a bevy of other players in the middle including the returning Maurice Edu. Rangers are also top of the table–would they risk upset their starting team balance?
Does Stu step in as an immediate starter there? Likely not. Maybe he gets there quickly, but at the very least it’s still an unknown.

If Stu stays MLS, he’s assured of both playing time and his captaincy. Further Holden in States leaves him available for critical friendlies whereas making his mark overseas he might not have that luxury of coming back for one (like in February against World Cup caliber Mexico) or there could be some tension around making that trip from his new club.

√ World Cup 2010 Exposure

This is probably the biggest positive.

Assuming Stu solves 2a above, exposure in South Africa (and a positive performance) is sure to have other clubs stand up and take interest in securing his services. Right now, there is handful of clubs that are looking at Holden as the solution to their problem. However, hocking his wares on the world stage come next June? Well, pretty much everyone is going to be watching.

Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley certainly drew more collective interest after their Cup performances, in 2006 and 2002 respectively, with a good performance Holden is sure to as well.

The Face of the MLS (smaller point)

Is Landon’s forthcoming loan announcement going to turn out to be permanent? Who knows…but the MLS needs a new “face.” Someone who is recognizable as the league. While this point pales greatly in comparison to the aforementioned, it once again give Holden some leverage, but also makes him even more recognizable around the globe.


Stu Holden can clearly make more money and face better competition overseas. If World Cup 2010 wasn’t occurring, I think Stu’s decision would be an easier one. By the staying at least for a year in the MLS, Stu could potentially open up a whole host of new suitors by his play on the world stage come next June. I think that is really the crux of the decision here.

Should Stu go? In this writer’s mind, only if the new club he’s donning his boots for is a good mid to long term option for him and has been thoroughly vetted. I’m not so certain that Scotish league (another op-ed…this on Scottish football) generally and the Rangers specifically are a good fit for him. It seems that many players are disillusioned with their playing time (DaMarcus Beasley, Neil Alexander), there are murmurs of the club being in financial trouble.

A prospective piece of news going around the grapevine this year is that Celtic and Rangers were attempting to join the Premiership, only for EPL heavies to shoot that down.

Mid-table Aberdeen, the other rumored club, is perhaps a better fit for Holden, however that side barely has a shot at the Europa Cup.

Should Stu stay? In this writer’s mind, only if it’s a one year deal that allows him the utmost flexibility at the end of calendar year 2010.

If TSG were Stu? Well, if we were convinced the opportunity overseas was the right one for the next 3-5 years, then we’d have to pack our bags.

28 responses to this post.

  1. Holden should stay. He’s on the verge of becoming everything that Taylor Twellman couldn’t for the league and the USMNT. A marketable face for the league that loads of people recognize (or are starting to recognize… sorry TT the “Kick Back” soccer ball doesn’t count) and a regular contributor to the national team.

    Both are at risk with a move abroad. Yeah he gets big pay day, but he can still get buko bucks for another year or two in MLS and the league will make him a god. Where going aboard he’s going to rot on someone’s bench because that’s what happens to almost any prominent US player unless you’re a goalkeeper (Dempsey excluded).

    I can’t wait for the day that our domestic league is the home for our best players and they don’t have to suffer at the hands of ignorant and America-hating first team coaches.


    • Since we so often agree, I’m going to take the counter point here. First Dempsey is not the exclusion of which you speak because he had a hard time breaking into the first team (I believe his Premiership saving goal against your Liverpool was only his second or third game that season, can I get a $35,000 journalist to fact check that for me?). As for Iceman, I think if he chooses his club wisely he won’t end up rotting on a bench, sure there will be the initial adjustment period, but I think a move to a mid-table Scottish side or mid-table Championship side (Convey replacement at reading anyone???) would see him get ample playing time and plenty of suitors for future gigs if he performs.

      As for waiting for the day when our domestic league is the home for our best players, well….I think we’d all like that so no counterpoint here.


      • I don’t know if I adequately qualified my reply above, I was providing a counterpoint to Free Beer’s arguments. In my opinion (and no it’s not humble) Holden would be better served wearing the Naranja of Houston prior to the World Cup. Getting that PT and confidence will do a lot heading into SA in June and will hopefully give him the gumption to prove himself to all of the scouts watching who need a right sided midfielder. Then he moves onto Europe and has a whole season to work his way into the team and destroy defenses with his ample crossing skills.


  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/15 at 5:51 PM

    On a sort of parallel note, I’m not putting a lot of stock in Bob Bradley’s insinuation that if you don’t play, you won’t be playing on the USMNT.

    Gooch, Spector, Altidore…they all saw considerable pitch time during qualifying even though they were getting little run for their clubs.

    The point I’m making is that I think Stu is easily WC bound already and I’m not sure if he doesn’t play if it does impact his standing in WC 2010.

    That being said, he *should go to a place where he can play.


  3. Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/15 at 8:20 PM

    If I’m deciding what’s best for Stu, I would stay in MLS one year. If I decide what I would like, he would never leave Houston. MLS definitely enjoys having him there, but after next year he should pack his bags.


  4. Posted by pckilgore on 2009/12/15 at 11:16 PM

    The way I see it as explained above, MLS needs Stu more than Stu needs to play overseas. At least this year. Seems to make sense, although if he is going to develop more as a player, European coaching is needed. Maybe we can convince Guus to retire in nice sunny Houston. Seems a bit nicer than Russia.

    Also, shouldn’t references to Major League Soccer in a sentence just be MLS and not “the MLS?” I know I’ve been saying “the MLS” too but it just struck me that there is an unnecessary article in that expression.

    I like the MLS = I like the Major League Soccer.
    I like MLS = I like Major League Soccer.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/16 at 12:03 AM

      On the MLS I going with the contention that they got it wrong. :>

      Every other league ends with “league” or a synonym of such, “association” with exception of “Major League Baseball”

      I just think that it needs to be qualified as a proper noun….as in if I’m talking in a conversation people don’t know if I’m talking about MLS or that I play at a “major league soccer” level.

      I will try to refer to it as MLS…or the MSL…(kidding)


      • Posted by jonk on 2009/12/16 at 9:43 AM

        This reminds me of how upset people get when I say “the BART” instead of just BART.


        • Posted by pckilgore on 2009/12/16 at 12:33 PM

          Are you going to take the bay area rapid transit. Sounds fine to me….

          I mean, this all gets filled under the “ATM machine” discussion of things people will always say no matter how technically incorrect the actual meaning of the expression is. I honestly just never thought about it before for MLS, and of course as soon as I thought of it, it starting bugging me.

          You should probably just ignore me….


  5. Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/16 at 1:05 AM

    I’ll just add a few things to consider:

    – Holden’s WC roster spot is secure…he is one of the few wingers that actually stays on the wing, provides some of the best service on the squad and is probably the back-up free kick taker

    – Similar to a stud college QB that stays for his senior year, Holden would be taken a big risk with a short term deal in the MLS. Given his injury and freak incident history he may be less inclined to take that risk.

    – If the labor situation drags on the decision to go gets a lot easier

    By the way, the fact that the league commissioner is trying to convince a player to stay demonstrates a lot that is wrong with the league. (Yes, I know that player contracts are with MLS and not individual teams.)


    • I don’t think there’s too much wrong with the fact that Garber is working so hard to keep Stu in MLS. Even though the idea that the league owns players contract is bizzarely socialistic in a super capitalistic sports society it is MLS’ current reality.

      I think that any league WANTS to retain its best players and doesn’t like to see teams sells them off. I’m sure the director of the Premier League (if he were more apart of team negotiations) would have wanted Cristiano Ronaldo to stay in the EPL rather that head to La Liga and Real Madrid.

      Any league CEO that urges a player to stay home is just as similar here and aboard. not terrible indicative of the state of American soccer (even though we all know there are other more pressing issues).


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/16 at 7:37 AM

        I concur…I’m not sure there is anything wrong with it either.

        MLS (not “the” MLS, but MLS….) is building it’s league slowly…and in my opinion correctly….it will be natural to lose players to top flights.

        The bigger concern with the league are the low wages that make average players–not Holden–need to leave for average or subpar 2nd divisions overseas. I’m not sure how they solve that one in the short term.

        I’m not worried about the impact of the labor decision because if there is a delay in the moment of soccer that’s probably the worst thing coming into and out of the World Cup. It’s on my topic of discussions with Garber, but that’s about it.


        • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/16 at 8:45 AM

          How is the labor deal not a worry? If there the 2010 season is delayed Holden isn’t getting ready for the WC.

          Also, why would Holden take a below market deal from MLS in the hopes of a transfer knowing that he won’t even get a percentage of the transfer fee?


      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/12/16 at 8:51 AM

        I understand why it makes sense for Garber to be involved given the contracts and profile of Holden. However, I think it just symbolic of what is wrong with the league and what is precluding the league from progressing at this point.

        If I were Holden, I’d rather be hearing from the GM of Dynamo telling me how he is going to make the team better, not the commissioner telling me how he is going to market me.


    • Posted by pckilgore on 2009/12/16 at 12:44 PM

      Stu could get hurt anywhere. Wouldn’t it be better if he got hurt in the US, had better doctors, and got right back on the pitch because Houston needs him? If he gets hurt overseas, yeah, he’s in the club but he could risk loosing his spot and never having a chance to prove himself again.

      Look at Rafa Marquez at Barcelona. He was one of the worlds better defenders, but he got hurt, and in the meantime so many better defenders have come that he can barely break the starting 11 in Copa matches.


  6. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/12/16 at 7:38 AM

    If I were Stu, I’d go in a hearbeat. MLS is a development league. The fact that he is making nothing now shows that he got what he wanted out of the MLS (a big contract in Europe because of his performance). If he stays, he is perpetuating the myth that MLS is a destination league and this will hurt our development as a nation. He might be making $350,000 a year if he stays, but he will be playing against guys who barely make enough to live on (and the performance on the pitch shows it). If he wants his career to go somewhere, the future is in Europe. Being the “face of MLS” and a US superstar is nothing compared to the status/fame/money he could get in Europe. Risk/Reward. I’ll choose high risk high reward every time.


  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/16 at 9:12 AM

    Tongue-in-cheek, here’s how I think the labor discussion went between Stu and Don:

    Stu: What about the labor situation.
    Don: There is no labor situation; we’re playing.’
    Stu: Yeah, but Jimmy…Eddie…those guys are serious over there
    Don: I know, I know…the most foolish thing this league could do *as a whole is to delay the start of a season during a time when the World Cup is coming that summer and the World Cup bid is being assembled…we’d miss all the free promotion.

    Stu, you don’t strike as a league like us…it would be curtains. What you are hearing now is a little bit of rhetoric. Look I grew up in marketing and I saw what happened with NFL Europe…the lack of continuity would kill this league.

    Won’t don’t it. Can’t do it. Mike Singletary style….

    Stu (protesting): ….yeah…but…my salary….you know the guarantee and all…

    Don: Again, we’re not the NFL…this not about millions of dollars at stake and agents pushing coddled clients…

    This is about players making a fare wage…Look at you, star of our league at $35K…that’s not going to fly going forward. What we need to do is make it equitable for fans, owners, and players alike.

    We need a little bit more visibility into how 2009 was and what 2010 sponsorship and growth look like. Look, Jimmy over there is not going to get everything the player’s want…we need to make it attractive for owners to come in to leagues…

    But we know there are much better alternatives for pay elswhere.

    It will happen…or I’ll take a hike.


    On staying with the MLS, there is a *better case to go abroad. That being said…merely what I outlines above is a chance at a higher wage and better club through WC 2010 exposure.

    Stu should only take a one year deal…if it’s being offered…in my opinion and if he stays. I don’t want him going to the Scottish league…that’s where players go to die (Jerome Rothen) these days or where cheaper Americans go to play.

    Let’s get him over to a team like Birmingham (who should remain in the EPL) or Fulham even….

    Wow…too much coffee…


    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/16 at 2:47 PM

      And next week everton says they’re interested in Stu. Wuich is why they didn’t go through with buying or loaning Stu. What if he goes on a summer long loan to Europe then returns for one last year in MLS. If he’s getting plenty of playing time at his club, he could ask the league for a permanent switch. I think Holden is also Houstons first priority which could raise his paycheck even more.


  8. […] Jerome Rothen, who we mentioned in our Stuie article this week, apparently leaving the Rangers according to many sources. Rothen plays on the […]


  9. […] Weigh in on what Stu should do here. […]


  10. Please don’t go to Blackburn…


  11. Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/21 at 7:14 AM

    Holden should not go to any team where he will not get playing time. He’s been linked to ranger and now that Jerome Rothen is gone the could be a possibility. If he’s naturally good at being a right winger I’m just going to throw out maybe Man United would be a good fit. United is still trying to replace their CR7, so why would they not take a look at Holden.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/21 at 7:37 AM

      Kevin: First let me say, any MLS team would love to have you in their fanbase.

      As for Man United, they need a real difference maker in Ronaldo’s wake….I think Stu would be a downgrade to Antonio Valencia who is still not dynamic enough for them…

      Plus if you want to get Stu pitch time, you’re not sending him to Man U…..Blackburn is actually a decent fit. My concern with Blackburn as with Jozy with Hull City is that these teams that are fighting relegation don’t have the patience for the necessary adjust ment period with these guys….that’s my concern.

      Also, TSG wants your Brian Ching questions for our interview. I know you have a few….


      • I was going to say the same thing about United, a friend and I were discussing how SWP would do at OT during the Fulham match this weekend. Not to knock on Stu, but I don’t know if he has the chops for the Premiership at the moment. Sure he’s played well for the USMNT but in the couple of matches I saw he wasn’t exactly lighting up MLS. I think a move to a lesser league, such as the Colaship, Holland, or even France would be better than Blackburn. As long as there’s playing time and a manager who has enough faith in him to let him develop and get some minutes I don’t care where he goes/stays.


      • Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/21 at 9:03 AM

        Well some of my biggest questions for Ching wouldn’t be about the USMNT. The very first question I would ask would be about Houston getting their own Stadium. While addressing Houston I might ask what team he thinks would be the best fit for Holden. After that I would work my way into asking what he would do to impress BB over Casey. Do you see another World Cup in the cards for you? Do you think Rico will make a move overseas or is all talk? How much longer do you think you will be able to play the game? Just some questions like that. I think probably at the very end of the interview I would throw in another Houston question about our forward carousel. All the questions I can think of for the USMNT would be rather generic and for a USMNT interview you would probably be better served with someone else, but he is a great opportunity to learn more about MLS.


  12. […] As good as gone is our assessment. Although we penned the piece, “Counterpoint: Why Holden Should Stay?,” he’s got the financial motivation, the desire, and now the skills to strut his stuff […]


  13. […] Finally, I wrote this in the comments section of a Stu Holden piece on December 15th, 2009 and while I’m getting worried about my analysis, I’m going to […]


  14. […] Counterpoint: Why Holden Should Stay […]


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