Unfortunately we didn't get to see these two playoff-bound teams play 11 vs. 11, because a recurring problem for Bill Hamid recurred again.
This is the criticism of Bill Hamid.
D.C. United lost an important Eastern Conference match to the Houston Dynamo by a score of 4-0 tonight, and we're all left wondering what could have been if not for an early mistake by Hamid that sent United down to 10 men for the majority of the match.
I don't fault Hamid for the slight hesitation in sprinting off his line. Being a goalkeeper isn't easy. You have to make critical decisions on a split-second notice. More than any other position on the field, a split-second decision can alter the score of a game for better or worse.
If Hamid doesn't deserve blame for the hesitation though, he certainly deserves it for the leg drag. Hamid had already cut down the angle and pushed Macoumba Kandji wide, but he left his leg hanging out, just begging for Kandji to trip over it and earn the penalty kick. Kandji obliged.
The leg drag was just so unnecessary, so inexcusable, so destructive, and unfortunately so in-character. We've seen this from Hamid before. Three times now in the past two seasons we've witnessed Bill Hamid come in too hard on a challenge. We've seen him clean out an opponent unnecessarily, and cost United points in the process.
First it was the 2-2 draw against these same Dynamo at RFK Stadium last year, in which Hamid handed Brian Ching a penalty kick late in the match to steal a point. Then it was the 3-3 tie against Toronto FC in August, in which Hamid was sent off for bowling over Eric Avila in a game that required a DeRosarian effort from Dwayne De Rosario for United to hold onto the draw.
It happened again tonight.
Hamid is a man. A 6'-3" 225 lb man. He's bigger and stronger than everyone around him. His body is a lethal weapon. A weapon that should remain holstered.
Another criticism of Hamid is that he clearly did not read the scouting report on Macoumba Kandji. He's got some speed and he uses it to get in behind the opposing back line. But with just two goals in his previous three MLS seasons (with three different clubs), Kandji isn't a big threat to score. A better option than charging after a ball that is out of reach? Stand strong in goal. Let Kandji shoot wide.
Hamid is a very good goalkeeper. He's the best goalkeeper on the D.C. roster, and he's one of the best goalkeepers in MLS. But body control is one weakness that Hamid still needs to address. Because its still costing us points.
Hamid clearly wasn't the only one to make mistakes in this match though. He just happened to make the first, and probably the biggest. Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, and Danny Cruz all made mistakes that put scores on the board for the Dynamo.
I thought that this match would come down to tactics. And I was looking forward to seeing how Ben Olsen would cope with Dominic Kinnear's 3-4-3. Unfortunately, we didn't really get that chance. There are few tactical advantages to be gained from removing your midfield metronome and set piece specialist due to a goalkeeper error. There are even fewer tactical advantages to be gained from burning two of your substitutions in the first half. Kinnear has bested Olsen before, but this time our old No. 14 never really had a shot.
Onward we go. The Dynamo played well enough to deserve a win tonight, and United's winless streak in Houston will enter another calendar year.
I don't think this loss diminishes our overall opinion of this D.C. team though. Still very much in playoff position tied with the New York Red Bulls for second place in the Eastern Conference, our championship hopes are alive and well.