HUDDERSFIELD, England – Tucked away in a quiet Yorkshire town just outside Leeds, an American midfielder is dreaming of representing his country in Brazil.
The man in question is 19-year-old Duane Holmes, and his dream is the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Born in Columbus, Ga., to a US serviceman father and an English mother, the dynamic Huddersfield Town attacking midfielder has already made significant strides, earning 16 appearances in his first season as a member of the club's senior roster. As he continues his rise up the English ranks with his club – 17th-place Huddersfield have maintained their place in the second-tier English Championship for next season – the dual national has no doubt about where his international future lies.
“I’m American, my kids will be American and their kids will be American,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I could still take you to my old house [in Fort Benning, Ga]. I’ve got a USA kit from when I was 11 years old, and it still fits me now – it was that big when I got it! I’ve always had my heart set on [playing for] America, I’ve always told my mum and dad: I’m going to play for the US.”
Spending his early childhood in Fort Benning, the 19-year-old moved to Wakefield, England, at the age of four following the end of his parents' relationship. Still in contact with both his father and his extended family in the US, Holmes tries to fit in a visit at least once per year.
“I still have the plane ticket and luggage tag from my first-ever flight back to the US," he explained. "It’s in a little tin where I keep some things that are special to me.”
Holmes went to Hampden Park for the US national team's friendly against Scotland last November, and his American dream is something Huddersfield fans have quickly embraced.
“Occasionally I’ll get chants of ‘USA, USA’ when I’m warming up on the sideline,” Holmes said. “My teammates make a lot of jokes, though. They say they don’t believe I’m American and that I should stop pretending.”
An attacking midfielder who is equally as comfortable operating in a deeper position – "I just like to run with the ball, really," he says – Holmes’ explosiveness is something that could certainly benefit US youth technical director Tab Ramos. Though Holmes has yet to hold an official conversation with US Soccer, a federation representative confirmed to MLSsoccer.com last week that Holmes is “on the radar screen.”
Born in November 1994, Holmes missed the age cut-off for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup by less than two months, but that has not prevent an upbeat outlook on his international future.
“I qualify for the U-23s, which is the Olympic team [in 2016], and that’s a huge deal in the US,” he said. “That’s really where I’ve got my head set at the minute, trying to get a place on that flight to Brazil.”