The news in January was not promising. Bill Hamid, D.C. United's first ever homegrown player - not to mention the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year - had to remove himself from the January US national team camp to have surgery on a torn right meniscus. The timetable was unclear at first, but eventually the worst was confirmed: Hamid was out for 4 to 6 months, meaning that the USMNT hopeful would miss a significant portion of the MLS season, and in all likelihood the Copa America Centenario as well.
But last week, Hamid got the green light to return to normal practice. After a month and a half of working after United's training sessions and before games with goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton, Hamid was given permission to go all out with his teammates. The only thing that remains now is for Hamid to play a game with the Black-and-Red in 2016.
"I've got an indication of when I'll be back, and I know when I'll be back," Hamid told B&RU on Monday, without revealing when he was told he would play. "I'm excited for it. I've been patiently waiting. I've been in the background, getting my reps in, working my hardest, so once I get back on the field, I'm going to hit the ground running."
The surgery on his right meniscus in January was on the same knee that Hamid had arthroscopic surgery on to repair that same meniscus in July 2015. That surgery - which occurred at the same time that Hamid had work done on his left wrist - kept Hamid out for just four games. Originally scheduled to miss 4 to 6 weeks, Hamid made his return to the field less than 30 days after the surgeries, starting United's 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact.
In retrospect, that might have been too soon for Hamid to return.
"I came back fairly quickly for that Montreal game that we won 1-0 on the road, when they had 100,000,000 shots. But we kept the shutout. Once the offseason hit, once we were knocked out of the playoffs, I kept going," said Hamid.
Hamid left United after their demise against the New York Red Bulls to join up with the US national team for two World Cup Qualifiers. After that ended, he went over to England to train with Norwich City, before returning to the US to prepare for the upcoming January camp with the USMNT.
All told, Hamid had only given himself about a week off. That's what Hamid says eventually forced him to go under the knife again, when he would have much rather have been with the national team.
"I didn't really rest like I needed to, because I was so pumped up. I knew in that national team camp I was going to get a game or two. I was preparing from that," said Hamid. "So because I didn't rest from that surgery in July, didn't give my body an offseason to recover, that's what led to that same meniscus tearing. [The surgery] needed to happen."
And not that Hamid is ever one who needs help motivating himself, the latest setback has given him even more fuel to return for United, and fight his way back into the national team picture.
"Keep going, keep doing the things I have always done," Hamid said of his path back to the national team. "I've had ups and downs my whole career. From the Olympic team, to losing my spot to Joe Willis. Once I got my job back, I was lights out. But the ups have been so high, it motivates me to get back up there. All you have to do is keep going, know that you're going to get hurt, going to have downs. You have to push yourself through all the negatives, and you're going to be back up in the positives once again."
When Hamid went under the knife, Andrew Dykstra became United's presumptive starter until the Annandale native returned. But after appearing three times, Dykstra had surgery of his own due to a back injury, thrusting second-year professional Travis Worra into the limelight.
Worra, who had just 32 minutes with United in his rookie year, has performed well in his stint with Hamid out, keeping four clean sheets in 10 appearances. And though he's technically competition for Hamid's spot, Hamid has been quite impressed with Worra throughout this season.
"I was one of the guys when Andrew [Dykstra] went down, I was one of the ones who firmly believed that Travis was ready," Hamid told B&RU. "Watching Travis, I like watching guys like him train. You see their mentality, you see what they are capable of. Training with Travis, I can see that he has the technique down. He has the focus and the drive, as well as the right set of skills to perform at a high level."
But now, Hamid is focused on getting himself back onto the field, putting in the kind of performances that earned him that 2014 accolade as the best goalkeeper in MLS.
"I feel good, I feel sharp. I just got some smoothing out of the edges and I'm going to be ready."