For Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stuart Holden, a preseason tour of the United States is a trip to familiar surroundings.
Bolton, 14th-place finishers in the English Premier League last season, arrived in Orlando on Sunday evening to start an exhibition tour that will kick off with a match against FC Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Included in the 41-member traveling party is Holden, the Scottish-born midfielder who has made 17 appearances for the United States men's national team and is preparing for his second full season with Bolton.
Bolton also spent last summer in North America, playing matches in Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Toronto. This year, after playing FC Tampa Bay, the Wanderers will meet third-division Orlando City before traveling to Houston to meet Holden's former club, Houston of MLS.
"I'm excited and all the guys are excited too because they went to the States last year and they really enjoyed their trip and this is three new cities," Holden said.
Holden is still recovering from an ACL injury sustained in a game against Manchester United in March, and is not expected to return to the field for two more months.
While rehabbing during his off time, Holden says he has a more important responsibility while Bolton is in the U.S.
"Obviously, I'm injured, but I'm going to be with the team and do my rehab at the same time," Holden said. "I'm probably going to act as the tour guide and show these guys a little bit of my neck of the woods."
Because of the injury, Holden was not with the U.S. national team during its Gold Cup campaign in June. Holden watched from outside the camp as the U.S. advanced to the final before falling short to rival Mexico 4-2 in stunning fashion.
Holden was on the U.S. roster for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, playing in the Americans' opening game against England. He is proud of the progress soccer has made in the U.S., affording American players the ability to draw attention from Europe and make a living playing overseas.
"I think if you look back 10 years, I don't think American players would have had the amount of respect that they have now, with more and more people looking at MLS to potentially pick up players that are able to play (in Europe)," Holden said. "I think U.S. soccer is coming forward. The last World Cup was obviously a positive for us, finishing first in our group and going on to a game that I think we were better than Ghana but we didn't win on the day. I think now it's important going forward that we lay that even more and that every cycle that we try to push soccer forward and try to build on what we did the last four years."
The U.S. lost its first-ever group stage game during this Gold Cup, a 2-1 decision to Panama in a game played at Raymond James Stadium. The Americans overcame that result, advancing to the final.
"We put pressure on ourselves to win these tournaments and when we don't there's going to be disappointment but now it's important that we focus on World Cup qualifying, which starts in October," Holden said.
Bolton will have an open training session Wednesday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the University of South Florida before squaring off against FC Tampa Bay at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg on Thursday night at 7:30.
BOLTON WANDERERS VS. FC TAMPA BAY
BOLTON WANDERERS VS. FC TAMPA BAY
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: At Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg
TICKETS: $20 to $26; call (813) 287-1539 or go to fctampabay.com.