D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, the organization’s longest-serving player who rose from the academy ranks to a U.S. national team prospect, said Wednesday that he will not return to the club next season.
Hamid’s contract expires this winter, and, after weighing offers from United and exploring other opportunities, he told the Insider: “I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”
Hamid, who will turn 27 next month, declined to say where he is headed. The assumption, however, is that he plans to sign with a European club. He would not have to wait until the winter to agree to a deal but couldn’t play until the transfer window reopens in January.
Danish club Midtjylland is the front-runner, one source said. Although Denmark is not a high-paying destination, another source said, Hamid sees it as a springboard to a bigger league in Europe.
“I think you are going to find out in the next 48 hours,” he said of his next club. “I am extremely excited for what’s next. It’s a big opportunity. It’s a big steppingstone to what can come later on in my career.”
United officials did not reply to messages seeking comment.
Hamid’s final appearance after eight years with United would come Sunday against the New York Red Bulls in what is both the regular season finale and the team’s farewell to RFK Stadium before moving to Audi Field in Southwest D.C. next summer.
However, because of a minor back injury and Coach Ben Olsen’s desire to look at different players at the end of a losing campaign, Hamid has not played since Sept. 16. Despite training regularly, he didn’t travel to Portland, Ore., last weekend. Steve Clark, a late-summer signing, has started four consecutive matches.
Before Hamid’s announcement, Olsen said he had not decided who would start this weekend.
“Right now, my priority is to look out for the team and put my heart aside and make decisions that benefit this club,” he said.
One source said Hamid and some United officials are no longer speaking because of the way he and his new agents handled the negotiations.
United and Hamid had engaged in on-and-off contract negotiations all year, and at one point, he turned down a three-year guaranteed deal worth an estimated $2.1 million overall. This season, he is earning a base salary of $350,000 and guaranteed compensation of $395,500, according to the MLS players’ union.
Hamid, an Annandale High School graduate who played at DeMatha for two years, wanted to keep his options open until late in the year. Eintracht Frankfurt, a German Bundesliga club, was reportedly interested in him. Hamid said United turned down offers during the summer, but sources said the figures discussed were much too low to consider.
Because Hamid’s contract is expiring, United will not collect a transfer fee. It will, however, retain his MLS rights because it made a bona fide offer. Hamid fell just short of qualifying for MLS free agency; a player needs to be 28 years old with eight years of league service. Given his desire to expand his horizons beyond MLS, he probably would not have pursued that avenue anyway.
“I want to see growth as a player and a person, as a man of this world,” he said. “I want to keep learning.”
Hamid then credited a long list of D.C. academy coaches and first-team staff for his career development, saying, “The club helped me get to a level that I never imagined playing for this club and this country.”
Hamid holds the D.C. record for goalkeeping appearances in the regular season (184), starts (184) and shutouts (49). He was MLS’s goalkeeper of the year in 2014 and earned several call-ups to national team camps. Knee injuries prevented his participation the past two winters. He has made three international appearances, most recently against Nicaragua in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer.
With his idol, Tim Howard, nearing the end of his national team career and the U.S. squad in flux after failing to qualify for next summer’s World Cup, Hamid is among several candidates seeking to make a mark in 2018.
“It’s a very interesting time for me and the journey I’ve had here, from the academy to signing with the club” at age 18, he said. “I want to see myself continue to grow and continue to get better and be the number one for the national team.”
It’s been difficult, he said, to contain the emotions of leaving the only pro club he has ever known. On Wednesday, he reminisced about, as an academy player at first-team training sessions, trying to stop Marco Etcheverry’s free kicks to the top corners of the net and facing Jaime Moreno in one-on-one situations. He remembered coming to United matches as a kid and, instead of watching the action, dribbling up and down the stadium ramps with his youth team buddies.
“It killed me, it put me in tears, the people with the club that I spoke to about my decision,” Hamid said. “I’m sad because I am leaving at a unique time for the team [with a new stadium opening next year] but kind of excited to push myself to the next level and go for it.”