D.C. United’s rotten season has been rough on everyone in the organization. Defeats have mounted at a troubling pace. Anguish has deepened with each lost weekend. Under the strain, some players have coped better than others.
Amid the hardship, the coaching staff has kept a close eye on goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who had bouts of immaturity, even during prosperous times, since making his first start at age 19 in 2010. When times are hard and shots are pouring into the net, a goalie typically receives disproportionate blame.
Hamid has dealt with the poor start “a lot better than he would have last year,” said Coach Ben Olsen, whose 1-8-1 squad carries a club-record seven-game losing streak into Sunday’s 5 p.m. match at RFK Stadium against Sporting Kansas City (6-4-2).
“Bill has been very mature about the way he has handling this stretch. He is not the only one who has had a hiccup or two here. This isn’t on Bill. He has had a couple of games where he has been the best player on the field. We’ve got to get him a little more consistent, but he has that ability.”
Hamid was benched for last week’s loss at FC Dallas, but the decision had more to do with needing to freshen the lineup for a second match in four days than a keeper issue. Although Olsen declined to identify the starter against Kansas City, Hamid seems on track to regain the job.
Hamid said he manages emotions better now than in the past.
“I was a teenager, still a baby. I still am a baby,” he said. “I don’t know, man, you just grow up and take it day by day. You create your own happiness.”
Hamid was happy Thursday when Juergen Klinsmann named him to the U.S. national team roster for a portion of a three-week gathering that includes two friendlies and three World Cup qualifiers.
With veterans Tim Howard and Brad Guzan atop the depth chart, four others will rotate in the number three slot. Hamid, who at 22 is the youngest in the corps, will practice with the squad May 30 to June 1 ahead of a friendly against Germany on June 2 at RFK Stadium.
Despite Hamid’s poor goals against average (1.89), Klinsmann said he selected him because “it’s important that these guys know, if they have a couple of bad games, they are suddenly not out of the picture.
“Billy has tremendous talent, tremendous ups and he also has his downs. We want to show our goalies like Billy that they have talent [and] need to go through this process of ups and downs.”
Hamid had significant ups early in the season, making tremendous saves when United was being badly outshot and lacked ball possession. In the third match, two of his stops in a 0-0 draw at New York, including a goal-line slap in the waning moments, were finalists for MLS save of the week.
He has conceded some soft goals as well, but United’s defensive breakdowns have led to most of the scars.
“There are 10 guys it goes past before it gets to him,” said center back Brandon McDonald, who took primary responsibility for all three goals surrendered at Columbus three weeks ago. “He is the reason we have probably stayed in the majority of the games. You are going to concede goals if you are defending for almost 90 minutes.”
Before Joe Willis took over in Dallas, Hamid had given up 12 goals in the previous four matches. During a 4-0 home loss to Houston 11 days ago, he did not receive much help: an early breakaway, an ill-advised back pass leading to his bad clearance, poor marking on a free kick and a late counterattack against an undermanned defense.
The weight of goals and losses was taking a toll, Olsen said, so “I thought it would be good for Bill to watch a game” against Dallas.
Initially, “I was very upset,” Hamid said. But “to sit on the outside and relax a little bit, it felt good. It was good to breathe a little bit.”
Hamid reacted better to this hardship than, for instance, his red card for allegedly tripping Kenny Cooper in a decisive playoff game at New York last fall. He berated the referee and an assistant referee, and while the match continued, posted a series of tweets from the locker room criticizing the decision, as well as Cooper and TV analyst Kyle Martino.
Books have helped him grow personally and professionally, he said. His current reading material: “Awaken the Giant Within,” Anthony Robbins’s 1992 best-seller promoting personal development and self-help techniques.
“My girlfriend has been sucking me into Barnes & Noble” at Tysons Corner, he said. “It’s making me look at things in a different light and approach things in a different way and realizing if you have negatives, if you keep working hard, it’s eventually going to turn positive.”