These are exciting days for D.C. United’s starting goalkeeper.
He is in the MLS playoffs for the first time.
He is enjoying the finest season of his blossoming career.
Best of all, “Skyfall” opens next week.
Just call him Hamid . . . Bill Hamid.
“It’s a great couple of weeks. It’s all positive,” said Hamid, who describes himself as an “unbelievable fanatic” of the James Bond film series despite the fact 16 of the 23 films were released before he was born in 1990.
Hamid’s not-so-secret mission: Stop the New York Red Bulls, United’s foe in a two-leg Eastern Conference semifinal series. Game 1 is Saturday night at RFK Stadium, with the return match Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.
Hamid has been at his dapper best in recent weeks, anchoring a seven-game unbeaten streak that secured United’s first postseason appearance in five years. In the regular season finale against Chicago last Saturday, the Annandale native made two brilliant stops among a career-high eight saves to preserve a 1-1 road draw, giving United the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
His most important intervention was 20 minutes into the match. With United already down a goal, he thwarted Sherjill MacDonald in a one-on-one situation. Later, with the score tied, he stopped MacDonald again with a reflexive hand save.
“He keeps us in it with that first save. Everything changes if we’re down two goals,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “You see it all come together with him in that match. He is playing well above his years.”
Hamid, 21, finished with the third-best goals-against average in MLS (1.03) behind a pair of veteran European keepers, Seattle’s Michael Gspurning, 31, and Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen, 35.
Hamid’s save percentage of 78.6 was the league’s best by a wide margin and the finest in his three seasons (68 percent last year).
Asked to describe his current form, he said: “I don’t want to jinx it. I am very superstitious. I want to be there for my teammates, and that just means making saves.”
Hamid’s work has been magnified since Dwayne De Rosario injured a knee in early September. Without its most influential attacker for the rest of the regular season, United embraced defensive tactics and didn’t generate as many scoring chances, leaving less room for error in the back.
“You want the big save, the spectacular save, but you really want him to be steady, make the saves he can and do the job back there,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “He has been good on both fronts.”
Hamid overcame a tumultuous spring to regain his rhythm. After starting the opener against Kansas City, he reported to the U.S. under-23 national team for the Olympic qualifying tournament. Neither he nor the squad met expectations and, in a major surprise, the Americans failed to advance to the Summer Games.
In Hamid’s absence, Joe Willis performed well for United. Upon his return, Hamid had to watch from the bench. He also lost his place as a reserve with the senior national team after receiving multiple call-ups last year. And without an Olympic stage to showcase his abilities for European clubs, his international stock dropped.
“He was down. He was disappointed,” United goalkeepers coach Pat Onstad said. “And he took it to heart.”
Willis made nine consecutive starts before relinquishing the job in May. Since then, the only interruption to Hamid’s starting grip was a one-game suspension for a red card in Houston in July.
“It has been a wild year,” Hamid said. “A goal has been achieved, getting to the playoffs, and now it’s about going further. Hopefully, for me, the national team call will come and then Europe in the future. I’ve got to keep putting in the work.”
Hamid has reduced the number of soft goals conceded and strengthened his teammates’ faith in him. At 6 feet 3 and 225 pounds, he has always had a presence in the penalty area, but with higher confidence and better decision-making, Hamid has grown in authority.
As for the Bond obsession, when Hamid was young, the family would gather at an uncle’s house in Maryland during Thanksgiving break and watch Bond movie marathons. He now owns the complete DVD set and, without missing a beat, can rattle off titles and the Bond actor and villain for each film.
His favorite: “Live and Let Die” (1973).
He is not, however, a fan of Daniel Craig in the lead role: “He’s not the right fit.”
“Skyfall” remains on the agenda, though it might have to wait if United advances to the conference finals.
“Playoffs and James Bond,” he said. “Can’t complain.”