Over the past few years, MLS's end-of-season awards seemed to have a sort of allergy to D.C. United, with a somewhat lengthy list of snubs stacking up. It's safe to say today has altered that trend. Hours after Ben Olsen was named Coach of the Year by a healthy margin, MLS announced that goalkeeper Bill Hamid and center back Bobby Boswell were among the league's Best XI.
Hamid's season was one United fans have been hoping to see. After years of showcasing his raw talent only to betray his youth and the refinement required to be a successful goalkeeper, Hamid took his game to the next level in 2014. Week in and week out, Hamid came up with huge saves at critical moments in games. In a season full of close games, United had Hamid to thank for saves that preserved ties or one-goal leads. While he was never a realistic candidate to win the award, it was Hamid getting the loudest murmurs in the season MVP award discussions at the end of the year.
In the past, Hamid's big saves were usually based around his athleticism, size, and his speed coming off his line. In 2014, Hamid added an improved knack for judging the intention of opposing attackers, as well as displaying better footwork and a keener positional sense. Hamid's improvement was noticed by Jurgen Klinsmann, who rewarded him with this second cap in last month's friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
United finished tied with the LA Galaxy as the league's stingiest defense, and Boswell was more responsible for that than any other field player on the team. Boswell started every game of the season and in fact missed just 15 minutes of the entire season. More vitally, Boswell kept a brand new back four - one that included a rookie for over half of the season as well as an inexperienced second-year left back much of the time - organized while also helping direct a lot of the individual decision-making. Long story short, what that means is a side that didn't make the disastrous, goal-causing errors that often defined 2013.
In the end, United posted 12 shutouts and were nearly impenetrable at home (conceding just 7 times in the last 15 regular-season games at RFK Stadium and/or Fedex Field). To be certain, plenty of that is down to the team's front-to-back commitment to defending as well as work put in as a unit on the practice field. However, individuals still have to go out under the bright lights and get the job done, and both Hamid and Boswell deserve their spots on the Best XI. Time and again, they made big plays and played a huge part in helping their teammates be better as well.
The full Best XI is as follows:
Bill Hamid (DC United)
Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders)
Bobby Boswell (DC United)
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy
Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)
Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)
Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)