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Postcard from Europe: Updates on Holden and Americans' pursuit of history

Postcard from Europe: Stuart Holden

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AMSTERDAM – Every so often, it's good to decipher the scribbles and tally the scratches, so you can start fresh. With that in mind, it's time again to clear the ol' American Exports notepad for the latest news and notes on Yanks abroad.

Holden in a holding pattern

More than a few fans may have felt a shiver of worry when Stuart Holden's injury comeback from last Tuesday was directly followed by his not dressing for Bolton’s weekend draw at Crystal Palace.

Stateside observers could certainly be forgiven for fretting about the possibility of another instant relapse in a knee injury saga that has lasted nearly two years now. However, Bolton manager Dougie Freedman says there's no need for concern over the US midfielder – only patience.

"Hopefully, he'll keep on recovering on the right lines, and hopefully, he'll be in the team on a regular basis very soon," he told reporters on Tuesday. "It's a long way, you don't just play 20 minutes and that's ... it.

"It's going to be another, I don't know, two or three months before we really see Stuart back to his best."

Anyone familiar with Holden (above) would probably guess the American was lobbying for more action sooner. And they'd be right.

"He's really been a bit of a pain in the backside, in fact, because he's desperate to get involved, desperate to play," Freedman said. "But I've got a decision to make, and it's in the best interests of Stuart on when to drop him in and when not to."

Bolton are in action on Saturday at home against Everton in the FA Cup, and they return to league play at Watford on Feb. 2.

Altidore joins rare company

When Jozy Altidore (right) rung up his second hat trick of the Eredivisie season last Saturday in a 4-1 win over Vitesse, he did more than just spark a sorely-needed AZ Alkmaar victory and close the gap on the league's top scorer to two goals.

The haul also counted as his fifth brace-or-better on the campaign. According to research done by the Soccer Over There blog, only three players in major European leagues (the big four, plus France, Portugal and the Netherlands) have pulled that feat more times this season than Altidore: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

What's more, only six stars have hit two or more in a match with greater frequency than Altidore since he joined AZ two summers ago. In addition to the aforementioned three, only Robert Lewandowski, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are ahead of the US striker's nine multi-goal games in that span.

McBride’s legacy lives on

When Bursaspor loan catch Maurice Edu's net-bound drive from distance was saved on Saturday, Kayserispor netminder Ertugrul Taskiran also cruelly denied the midfielder entry to what has become a crowded club of Americans to have scored on a European club debut.

By our count, at least 19 US exports have said hello by ringing the bell in their first competitive match for a new overseas employer during the past decade. Since Brian McBride hit on his Everton debut back in 2003, at least one American has accomplished the feat every calendar year.

McBride also scored a goal in his first Fulham contest, but there is one homeboy who's done the deed better than everyone, if you truly still count him as an American Export: New Jersey-born Italy forward Giuseppe Rossi fired debut strikes for Manchester United, Parma and Villarreal.

And what about scoring in each of the first two games for a new club? Best we can tell, only McBride and former Altach forward Nate Jaqua have managed that trick.

Kljestan to double his pleasure?

Winning the domestic double is champagne rarely tasted by Americans playing in Europe, but Anderlecht's Sacha Kljestan looks a solid bet to become just the seventh US player to raise such a glass this year.

Having reached the Belgian Cup semifinals last week, the Mauves return to Jupiler League action Saturday holding an eight-point table lead. Come March, they'll start the championship hexagonal oddity, which Kljestan helped them successfully navigate last year.

Until now, only former Rangers teammates DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu have reached both winners podiums twice; the former did it with two clubs (also PSV Eindhoven), while the latter managed it in consecutive years. John O'Brien (Ajax, 2002) and Claudio Reyna (Rangers, 2000) have also celebrated a double across the pond.

Our finest year?

While we're on the subject of silver, the new year holds the possibility of being one of the best for Americans in FA Cup history. England's biggest tournament is one that has often been unkind to the former colonies.

Both John Harkes and Tim Howard have played in the Wembley final twice, with the ex-Manchester United backstop our sole winner back in 2004. Other than that ... nada.

The Everton star was the last finalist, losing to Chelsea in 2009. He also made one bench appearance for United, making him easily the most successful American in FA Cup play.

Howard is still alive for a trip to the final this year, along with clubs employing nine other Americans (Aston Villa, Bolton, Derby County, Leicester City, Stoke City and Tottenham). Chances look good for many of them to reach the last 16 this weekend, when the Bolton-Everton match is the only one pitting US teammates against each other.