Last fall, Bill Hamid severed ties with the only professional club he had known. After coming up through D.C. United’s youth academy and spending eight seasons as one of the top goalkeepers in MLS, the Annandale native left his childhood team for Danish club Midtjylland.
But after logging just three matches in nine months overseas, Hamid returned to United on a year-and-a-half loan earlier this month. When Hamid was re-introduced at a news conference, D.C. coach Ben Olsen said, “It was as if he never left.”
The short duration of Hamid’s stay in Denmark is only part of the reason that rang true.
Hamid, 27, stayed in touch with United general manager Dave Kasper, exchanging text messages every month or so. He also stayed up until the wee hours of the morning in Scandinavia so he could watch United games.
When Wayne Rooney visited D.C. in May ahead of his summer signing, Hamid took the train down from Philadelphia — where he had an off-day from U.S. national team camp — and let the English star pick his brain.
“I’m thankful to the club for caring about me and always keeping up to date with what was going on,” Hamid said. “And I always kept up to date with what was going on over here.”
Hamid has conceded just two goals in three matches since his return, recording the team’s first shutout since April in a 2-0 win over New England on Aug. 19. The 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is set to play his fourth straight game when United (7-10-6) hosts the Philadelphia Union (11-11-3) on Wednesday at Audi Field (8, WJLA 24/7 News).
“He’s one of the best goalkeepers this league has ever seen,” Olsen said. “It’s been an up-and-down year and a half for Bill, and he wants to prove that he’s the goalkeeper he was.”
Re-establishing that status would boost both United’s playoff chances and Hamid’s prospects on the U.S. men’s team. Long seen as a potential successor to Tim Howard, Hamid cited his desire to face stiffer competition and break through as a national team regular when he was making the move to Denmark.
Hamid has made three appearances for the U.S. over the past year, but his lack of playing time for Midtjylland stifled his chances in a wide-open competition for the No. 1 job on the national team. Although he considered options in Europe and Asia when he decided to leave Denmark, the 6-foot-3 shot-stopper saw value in returning to a growing league and a locker room where he’s a known commodity.
“With the expectation of being a national team player, you have to play regularly,” Hamid said. “The quality, the diversity of players, the coaching — from top to bottom, [MLS] is extremely strong. … I thought it was a big opportunity to come back here and play in a league of this caliber.”