Another January meant another missed US national team camp for D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Another surgery on his right knee required more work on his meniscus, the same one that kept him out until the end of May last season. This year though, the surgery was less invasive, and there is a much brighter prognosis for when the Black-and-Red faithful can expect to see Hamid patrolling the 18-yard box at RFK Stadium.
“I foresee being ready for the opener. Per talking to the doctors, I know I’ll be cleared for the next preseason [trip],” Hamid told reporters during United’s media day on Tuesday.
Last year, Hamid’s surgery was to repair the meniscus in his right knee. That surgery meant that Hamid was on the sideline until a trip to Sporting Kansas City over Memorial Day weekend, with Travis Worra providing cover in goal. This year, Hamid simply got the meniscus removed, which means he’ll be participating in preseason training with his teammates in three weeks.
And it’s not just hopeful optimism from the player himself. Head coach Ben Olsen also believes that Hamid will be ready to go come March 4th, when United open up the season at RFK Stadium by hosting Sporting.
“I anticipate Bill being okay for the opener. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” said Olsen.
The timing of the surgery, though unfavorable to Hamid in that he had to once again miss the national team’s January camp, might actual benefit United in the long run. For one, Hamid was able to get the surgery out of the way without having to miss any extended amount of time. And two, this surgery might have been inevitable anyway at some point down the road.
“It going at the point that it went might be a blessing in disguise. I’m not going to be out that long, I’m not going to miss six months like I did last year,” said Hamid. “And I’m around the guys and get to have a preseason with the guys. For me, I look at it as a positive.”
And the difference between repairing the meniscus and removing it completely should mean less issues going forward for the keeper.
“He’s going to have some soreness now and then, but it’s nothing he can’t play with,” Olsen told reporters. “Every now and then he might have to ice a little more, or take a day off, but I’m not concerned about that when he gets up and running here in a few weeks.”
Of course the timing wasn’t all that perfect for Hamid himself, who had to withdraw from January camp, missing out on joining up with this club teammates, Taylor Kemp and Steve Birnbaum.
“It was tough emotionally,” Hamid said of the decision to have the surgery, “until I had the conversation I had with [national team manager] Bruce [Arena].”
Hamid didn’t go into detail about what the conversation with Arena went like, saying the content was private between the two of them. But Hamid made it clear that speaking to the new national team manager gave him hope that even though he would have to miss the camp, he would still have an opportunity to earn playing time in the red, white, and blue in the future.
“Bruce encouraged me, and that conversation took a lot of bricks off of my shoulders,” said Hamid. “It’s going to give me the confidence to start the season the right way, help this team, and show myself the way I want to show myself to this conversation.”
Hamid also stated that Jurgen Klinsmann being fired and replaced by Arena would help his future chances suiting up for the USMNT.
“I think it has a major impact on my prospects. [Klinsmann] started calling me in with his first camp. And I was his heir apparent at the time,” Hamid recounted. “Throughout the years it changed. That’s okay, coaches have their ways and their ideas, and you have to appreciate it. He still thought I was part of the program, he kept calling me in, but it started to change a little bit.”
“Now Bruce comes in, Bruce watches the league religiously, Bruce used to be a head coach at D.C. United, so he knows what this environment is all about. He knows what Ben [Olsen] and [General Manager] Dave Kasper are all about, and how they think, and how they breed young players at this club. I can tell he appreciates that, and I think it’s going to bode well not only for me, but a lot of young players, young players that don’t even think of the national team right now.”
Hamid is now entering his ninth season with the club, counting his shortened season when he signed with the club in September 2009 and was ineligible to appear in MLS games for that season. He initially joined United’s academy 11 years ago, and is currently the 12th longest serving player at one club in MLS.
He’s seen plenty of changes around him during his eight previous season, having gone through three different managers, countless teammates, and one playoff outburst following his sending off against the New York Red Bulls in 2012. All that said, while there have been plenty of comings and goings during his time, one crucial thing about the club that he has spent much of his life with stays the same.
“The badge has changed. The jerseys have changed. The players have changed. But D.C. United has a culture that I’ve appreciated since day one,” said Hamid. “The culture is the same, and I appreciate that. That’s what makes D.C. United special.”