Stuart Holden celebrates his goal vs. Belize
Courtesy of Portland Timbers

After 11 years, Stuart Holden ends playing career: "Time to stop fighting my body"

After 11 years with the US national team and with clubs in England and MLS, Stuart Holden is retiring from soccer.

In an open letter posted by US Soccer on Wednesday, Holden announced his retirement as he looked back fondly on his time with the Houston Dynamo, where he won two MLS Cup championships, and with the USMNT, where he represented his country in the Olympics and a World Cup.

“To the fans, thank you,” he writes. “Your support has never gone unnoticed and you've had a bigger impact on my life than you’ll ever know. All of the messages, tweets, songs, and passion for the beautiful game have left me humbled and forever grateful.”

Fans had their hopes up last month that Holden would return to action when word came that Holden was joining the USMNT's January camp. But in his letter, Holden points to his struggles to overcome injury as a major factor in his decision.

He last played USMNT minutes in 2013 before suffering an ACL tear during the Gold Cup. He re-injured the same knee in his return match for the Bolton Wanderers reserve team the following year and hasn’t returned to competitive action since.

“It’s time to stop fighting my body,” the letter reads. “I’ve known for a while, but I’ve struggled to admit it to myself and to others. The countless sleepless nights, the aches and pains, and the constant mental battles were all signs pointing to a new path.”

“But every time I was about to utter the three big words ‘I am retired,’ all the memories of walking into roaring stadiums, scoring last-minute goals, and being part of amazing teams dragged me back.”

Holden’s announcement comes on the heels of another big life event: The birth of his first child. That wasn't necessarily planned, Holden said.

“As I sat down to write my retirement letter, the final chapter of my 11-year career, my wife went into labor with our first child,” he said, noting that he was heading to the hospital and would finish writing from there. “Labor can take a while, but it’s the perfect affirmation that I have made the right decision to hang up my boots.”

Holden says he doesn’t know what’s ahead, but he has over the years picked up a steady stream of broadcast work for both ESPN and FOX Sports.

He says soccer will remain part of his life and hints he would like to be a coach or club owner in the future.

“The most recent opportunities will keep me in the game as a broadcaster, a coach, and maybe even as an owner one day. Who knows? Not me,” he writes. What I do know is that I am 100% at peace with my decision to retire from playing, and I am 200% excited for the future. True closure has been hard to come by, but man it feels good.”