The clock is winding down in D.C. United's game last week against Orlando City. United earn a free kick just outside the box, and Luis Silva steps up and curls the ball home, giving the Black-and-Red a 1-0 win. But it wasn't a game they were meant to win. And the only reason why Silva's goal counted as much as it did was because of the play at the other end of the field.
Called upon time after time in the first half, keeper Bill Hamid stood on his head throughout the entire match to earn a third shutout in four league matches this year. For players and fans alike though, this is just the form they expect from the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
In four games this season, Hamid has allowed just two goals, registering three shutouts while United are off to their best start since 2006. And while everything hasn't been quite peachy for United defensively, it's clear that Hamid has picked up the form from last year when we has the league's best.
"I would have preferred no goals against. But it's a great start," Hamid told BlackandRedUnited.com this week. "I think us as a unit in the back, and the holding midfielders, we have done extremely well to limit chances for the other teams, and keep the ball out of the net."
In Orlando, United faced an expansion side that has looked better than the part for most of the season. Finishing has been an issue for City, but with former world player of the year Kaka leading the charge the Lions were able to pressure United for most of the 90 minutes. But that's when Hamid was at his best, making five saves, each better than the last.
"Orlando is a tricky team. They found ways to break us down, especially late on in the first half," Hamid added. "I just put myself in the right position and hoped for the best. That's all I can do. But I think we are starting to get it back there, in terms of organization and shape and movement."
And while seeing Hamid play as well as he has thus far this season is a sight to see, United's success won't be sustainable with as many breakdowns as United has had defensively in the first four weeks of the season.
But in those cases were the other team can break United down defensively, United can rest assured knowing that Hamid is the last line of defense.
"He was great. Bill is going to have those games for us," United manager Ben Olsen said of the Orlando game. "He has that much quality that he can put in games where he's saving us. We would like to make sure those games are few and far between, because we don't want to have to rely on him that heavily week in and week out. But it's good to know he's back there."
This weekend, United welcome rivals New York Red Bulls to town in a rematch of a game played at Red Bull Arena three weeks ago. The Red Bulls inflicted the only defeat on United in the league this year, and scored the only two goals that Hamid has conceded.
Given that, if Hamid can produce another performance like the one against Orlando City, United believe that they have every chance of winning any game.
"Bill is important. It's the same as he was last year," veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud told B&U. "Maybe one game he doesn't have to a big save, but he's doing well on crosses, and another game he might have to make four big saves. He's more than capable of that. And if he's doing that for us, I think we are going to be tough to beat. It's nice to know that you don't have to be perfect when you have someone like Bill back there, who on his day, which he has a lot of, he can bail you out."
Of course, wins that United rack up with Hamid turning in outstanding performances might be pyrrhic victories in the long run. Having already been called up for US national team camps before, receiving two caps in the process, Hamid is a good candidate to be called in for next week's friendly against Mexico. And with the Gold Cup looming this summer, Hamid's form so far this season will make him hard to pass up for national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
"[A call-up] would mean a lot. Mexico is a very worthy opponent," Hamid added. "And every single time you can get called into the national team and wear the crest, it's a dream come true. It means as much as the first time I got called in, so I hope I get that opportunity, and if I do, I'm just going to go in there and do my best."