AUSTIN — Since D.C. United’s 2014 season ended, Bill Hamid has collected MLS goalkeeper of the year honors, fought a shoulder injury that forced him to miss U.S. national team training camp, dealt with a back ailment and heard growing buzz about European clubs interested in his services.
It was an eventful few months, except on the field.
But with United two weeks from international competition and then the regular season opener, Hamid is aiming to regain the form that rocketed him to prominence last year.
After missing the first three preseason friendlies, the Annandale native seems likely to make his 2015 debut at some point during the ATX Pro Challenge on Friday and Sunday at the University of Texas. United will open against the third-division Austin Aztex, then face FC Dallas or the Columbus Crew.
“I need the games right now,” Hamid said Thursday. “I need the preparation right now. And there is nothing as valuable as game minutes. Whatever it takes, if they want to see me, I am ready.”
With Hamid and backup Andrew Dykstra returning from injuries, United is keeping a cautious eye on the goalkeeping corps ahead of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Alajuelense (Costa Rica) on Feb. 26 and March 4. Dykstra is back in the mix after recovering from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last summer.
“It’s not a competition right now; it’s a partnership,” Hamid said of the keeper situation. “Because we need to get each other into peak condition.”
Barring any setbacks, Hamid is “ready to go full out,” Coach Ben Olsen said.
Before United regrouped last month, Hamid was slated to join the U.S. national team and compete with Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando for the starting role against Chile and Panama. But the shoulder injury undermined those plans.
“It was probably smarter not to do anything and get ready for the season,” said Hamid, who started against Ireland in November and is No. 3 on Jurgen Klinsmann’s depth chart behind Brad Guzan and Rimando. (Tim Howard is on national team hiatus.)
When United gathered in Florida for the start of training camp, Hamid began having lower back problems.
“Usually when I feel little things, I push through it in training, and that wasn’t the smartest idea,” he said. “It started to lock up even more. The MRI [exam] showed a disk bulge pushing up against a nerve. It hurt a lot. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t stretch. Sitting down for two minutes and it would lock up.”
With rest and treatment, Hamid said he is feeling much better. He resumed full-time work on the back end of camp in Florida and is experiencing less pain. He practiced the first two days in Austin, as well.
The push comes at the start of a pivotal year for the 24-year-old Hamid, who is entering his sixth season and final year of his contract. With his rise in MLS and national team circles, he has begun to draw serious interest from clubs abroad.
How he performs in international matches, both with United and the U.S. squad, will factor into a possible move overseas and his standing with American Coach Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer and the start of 2018 World Cup qualifying in the fall.
“I know [Klinsmann] is watching,” Hamid said. “I know I am in his plans, but I still have to perform. He told me the importance of the Champions League. It means a lot. These are the environments we are going to be facing in World Cup qualifying. That is a good stepping stone for me.”
As for a European move within the next year, Hamid said he is not letting it distract him.
“A lot of people are knocking right now,” he said. “There are a lot of good people out speaking for me. I don’t let it take a toll on my mind, because it takes focus off the weekend.
“When you have a goal to perform well in a game and you are focusing on what the future may hold, that takes away from preparation. And if it takes away from preparation, it hurts me in the long run.”
United notes: Perry Kitchen arrived in Austin after a month — and his first appearance — with the U.S. national team. Michael Farfan, acquired through MLS allocation Tuesday, also reported to camp. . . . Andrew Driver’s tryout ended without a contract offer. . . . Defender Luke Mishu (Notre Dame) and goalkeeper Scott Goodwin (second-division Carolina RailHawks) began trials.