D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid didn’t recognize the number when his cellphone rang Wednesday. So he let the call go to voice mail.
“I thought it was a telemarketer or something,” he said after Thursday’s practice at RFK Stadium.
Hamid ate lunch and then checked the message.
It was from Juergen Klinsmann, the new U.S. men’s national soccer team coach.
“I was shocked,” Hamid, 20, said. “As soon as I heard the voice, I knew it was him. I didn’t listen to the rest of the message. I put the phone down and was like staring into a far-off land. I started crying a little bit.”
Hamid had been chosen to join the national team ahead of next Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia — the first senior call-up of his career. World Cup veteran Tim Howard was the other goalkeeper selected and is likely to start.
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Hamid, who played at Annandale and DeMatha high schools in the D.C. area before signing a homegrown contract in 2009, will start for United on Saturday night against Toronto FC at RFK Stadium before reporting to U.S. camp the next day.
“It’s great,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s important for him to take it in stride and enjoy the experience but stay grounded and stay focused here, especially in the short term. I think he will. He’s been in a good place for the last month. He went through a tough patch there but he dug his way out of it. I think it shows Juergen is committed to bringing in guys that are potentially the future of the national team.”
Hamid (6 feet 3, 225 pounds) is in the U.S. program’s long-term plans. He is the top candidate for the U.S. under-23 squad, which will attempt to qualify for the London Olympics next year, and needs U.S. training camp experience. Klinsmann is eager to introduce new players into the system for a series of friendlies this year and early next year.
“I want to get better and show him I want to be one for the future and be in his plans,” said Hamid, who has conceded just one goal in the past four MLS matches.
“He’s come a long way,” United goalkeepers coach Pat Onstad said. “He worked hard in the offseason. Simo [former keepers coach Mark Simpson] put him on the right path and let him know he needed to improve a lot of things to become a better goalkeeper, and I think he took that to heart. This year you’ve seen the benefit.”
For Hamid, the presence of Howard, 32, at camp is particularly poignant: His e-mail address includes a reference to Howard’s name, and the two have formed a bond in recent months.
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Hamid said. “He’s a cool guy and I look up to him immensely.”