Holden timing World Cup run to perfection

MIAMI - U.S midfielder Stuart Holden is timing his bid for a place in the World Cup finals to perfection as he faces his first qualifying game for Bob Bradley's team - against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium on Wednesday. Scottish-born Holden made his debut for a second string U.S in July's Gold Cup and his performances in that competition have earned him a spot in the first choice squad. "I think he gave us good play throughout the Gold Cup, he's a player who finds good spaces to get the ball; is confident; capable of scoring; producing a final pass or a cross, so he's a guy that we're excited to have with us," said Bradley. That is just what Holden wanted to hear. "My first goal in the Gold Cup was to win the tournament and secondly to try and make good impressions on the coaches and put myself under consideration for the World Cup qualifiers - so when I got the call for this game, I was obviously excited and now I have to help in any way I can," Holden, who was born in Aberdeen but moved to Texas with his family aged 10, told Reuters. Holden is a livewire in midfield, buzzing out wide to the flank where he is capable of beating a man and delivering a pinpoint cross. The 24-year-old is also comfortable spraying the ball around from midfield and possesses a powerful long-range shot - as he showed with his spectacular strike against Haiti in the Gold Cup. Prior to the Gold Cup it was Holden's form in Major League Soccer for Western Conference leaders Houston that brought him into contention for a national team slot. "I came into the season fit and everything was clicking and in the right place. My confidence is growing and the team is doing well. Everything has just gone well this season," he said. "I wanted to be part of the World Cup team, that is everyone's dream but at the start of the season I considered myself maybe a long shot. I knew I had some work to put in and get into consideration," he said. Getting into the U.S team could also help Holden achieve his aim of getting a move to a European club in the future. The blond-haired midfielder had a short spell with English club Sunderland which was wrecked, in large part, by an assault on him in Newcastle which left him with a fractured eye socket. Although he never made the first team at Sunderland, Holden said he gained from the experience and would love another crack at playing in Europe. "I had a contract that was option based - with injuries and the team getting promoted it just all fell at the wrong time. I think was too young and a little naïve at that time, I didn't fully understand what it took to be a professional on and off the field and on a daily basis. "It was a great learning experience for me though, I trained with some great players and learnt a lot from the coaching staff but it allowed me to develop as a player and bring that back to MLS," he said. "It is a goal of mine to play overseas, whether it be now or a couple of years from now, I have to make that decision at the time."