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Holden Leads First-Timers on MLS’s All-Star First XI

July 14, 2009

By Dylan Butler/MLSnet.com Staff

PHILADELPHIA – Stuart Holden is having a very good two weeks.

On July 4 at Qwest Field, he scored on his international debut, helping lead the U.S. national team to a 4-0 drubbing of Grenada in the team’s opening game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

On Saturday, the midfielder struck for a stoppage-time equalizer as the USA rallied for a 2-2 draw with Haiti in their final Group B match.

And on Monday it was announced that the Houston Dynamo midfielder was named to the First XI for the MLS All-Star game in his first appearance.

Holden played at Clemson in 2003 and 2004. He was named second team All-ACC in 2004.

“To be named to the First XI is pretty flattering to me,” Holden said after the U.S. national team training session at the Philadelphia Eagles practice facility. “I’m excited. It’s just a testament to the hard work I’ve put in, but also the hard work my teammates have put in. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the guys around me, they’ve opened up opportunities to score goals and get accolades. I consider it a team award.”

Holden is one of seven All-Stars included in the First XI who will face English Premier League side Everton FC in the MLS All-Star Game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on July 29. The game will be televised live on ESPN and Galavision at 9:30 p.m. ET.

He is joined by fellow first-timers Dynamo teammate Geoff Cameron, Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg as well as Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde and Colorado Rapids striker Conor Casey.

At 23, Holden is the youngest member of the First XI, which is represented by seven different nationalities, highlighting the league’s ethnic diversity.

“It’s something that I’m really looking forward to and I’m excited for the opportunity to represent MLS,” Holden said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun — good competition with some good players. It will be a good day.”

Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario and New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph return as All-Stars, while Guillermo Barros Schelotto of the Columbus Crew, who led all players in combined votes, was named to the First XI after being selected for the inactive roster in 2008.

The First XI, which consisting of one goalkeeper, three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards, received the most votes at their respective positions from four groups — fans, players, media, and coaches/general managers.

On July 20, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff’s five selections will be announced. Two Commissioner’s selections will complete the 18-man gameday roster. Kinnear earned the honor of coaching the MLS side by leading his team to the highest points per game average in the League through games on June 28.

The First XI is not necessarily the starting lineup. Kinnear will select the starters based on player availability and tactical considerations. If First XI selections are unavailable due to injury, international duty or other commitments, Kinnear will select alternates for the gameday roster, but all First XI players are All-Stars.

Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com.

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