During the first half of Wednesday’s friendly against St. Louis FC, goalkeeper Bill Hamid put his gloves on, headed down the sideline, accompanied by goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton. The two worked together for several minutes, before Hamid warmed up in front of goal during the halftime break.
And then, less than two months after having knee surgery, Hamid took his spot in goal for the start of the second half against St. Louis. Now, D.C. United’s presumptive starter feels like he’s ready to go for opening day on March 4th against Sporting Kansas City.
“I wish it was my call. If it was my call, then I would push for it,” Hamid said of the decision whether or not he starts against KC. “It depends how they see that I’m doing: how I’m moving, if I’m making saves. If [head coach Ben Olsen] says I’m ready, I’ll be in there.”
During the 2016 offseason, Hamid had surgery on the same knee. But that time, the surgery tried to repair the meniscus in his knee. That kept him out until the end of May, as Travis Worra spelled him in goal. This year, Hamid had the meniscus removed. That meant a shorter recovery time, but will require more maintenance to keep his knee healthy.
The recovery process for Hamid went better than expected, which led to him getting 45 minutes against St. Louis on Wednesday.
“The rehab was good. It was interesting, working with a new group, MedStar Washington,” Hamid told B&RU at the team’s hotel on Thursday. “But it went well. I’ve done everything to get back sooner than expected, about a week before the original date.”
Hamid won’t be content with simply making it back onto the field, though. Knee surgeries have seen Hamid miss the last two January camps for the US national team. When Jurgen Klinsmann was in charge of the national team, it seemed that Hamid was on the outside looking in, despite numerous MLS ‘keepers getting a look.
Back in October, when the national team had a friendly at RFK Stadium at New Zealand, Klinsmann listed Hamid as seventh in the overall pecking order. Now, with Bruce Arena replacing Klinsmann, Hamid will have the opportunity to showcase his skills for a new manager.
And does Hamid think that he can contend for that number one spot?
“I feel like at my best, I’m the best goalkeeper in this league,” said Hamid. “When I’m not at my best, I’m not the best goalkeeper in this league. There’s a good goalkeeping corps right now, but if I’m at my best, I think I have a good chance.”
Having only two caps to his name at this point of his career, which will be his eighth full year as a pro, Hamid feels that he hasn’t accomplished some of the goals he set out for himself as a youngster. He started with United’s academy in 2006, signed a professional contract in 2009, but his career hasn’t quite followed the trajectory he might have hoped for.
That said, having spent so much time with his hometown team has given Hamid plenty of proud moments to look back on.
“Throughout the years that I’ve been part of this organization, it’s been a blessing, said Hamid. “To become a household name, to work my way up, and set records in the goalkeeping department for this club, and in the country. A lot of players would love to play for their hometown team. I’ve been fortunate enough to play at a high level to achieve that.”
Having been part of the organization for so long, Hamid is all too familiar with the friendly grounds of RFK Stadium. 2017 will mark the 22nd season of United playing on East Capitol Street. The Black-and-Red have longed for a stadium of their own for most of those 22 years, but those dreams had never come to fruition.
That has changed recently though, as United cleared the final zoning hurdle to begin construction on Audi Field, their new stadium at Buzzard Point. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, and Hamid says that the stadium will help re-invigorate soccer fans throughout the region.
“The organization is going to change, from top to bottom, because of the stadium. You’re going to see a lot more people in the Washington, D.C. area get on board, which is important,” said Hamid.
“One of the biggest things I’ve noticed throughout the years is that a lot of people I know come to a game or two, and they fall out of love with it because of the experience. It’s always a blessing to hear the fans, to be a part of the atmosphere. But a stadium is important to keep people coming week in and week out.”
And according to Hamid, there’s one group in particular that will benefit the most from the new stadium.
“The biggest change you’ll see is for the youth. The youth in this area need a new stadium. Youth soccer players in this area need a new stadium,” said Hamid. “There are so many kids that love D.C. United. But the experience for them just isn’t there. It will give a lot of kids that extra motivation to continue at pushing for their dreams. When they see the new stadium, they are going to feel a different type of experience.”
For now though, Hamid is focused on getting back on track to start his 2017. His goals are simple, even if accomplishing them can move him on to bigger stages in his professional career.
“I think the goal for me right now is to wake up every morning, say thank you to God, and go to training, and make myself better every single day,” said Hamid. “Try to keep a shutout on the weekend. And let everything else take care of itself.”