By now we're all surely familiar with the situation regarding Bill Hamid: D.C. United's best player will be out for months due to a meniscus injury picked up during offseason workouts. It's a subject we've already covered here, and it's probably the most important offseason story when it comes to United's hopes of success in 2016. Few teams in MLS - or anywhere, really - rely on their goalkeeper as much as the Black-and-Red.
Hamid's injury is said to require a 4-6 month recovery period. If Hamid is fit to play 4 months after surgery, he'd be out for the first 11 games of United's MLS schedule as well as the entire CONCACAF Champions League knockout round (regardless of how far DC gets). If his recovery takes the full six months, he would miss 18 games - that's over half of the 34 game season - as well as any chance of playing for the USMNT in this summer's Copa America Centenario.
Of course, Hamid doesn't necessarily want to settle for waiting that long:
The 3 month plan. In motion.— Bill Hamid (@BillHamid28) January 22, 2016
That would see him only miss 6 or 7 games, which is more in line with how his recovery was initially supposed to go before surgery revealed more extensive damage. That would leave 27 or 28 games for Hamid to play; if he appeared in all of them, he'd actually exceed his average number of appearances in a season (which, in the seasons he entered the year as United's starter, is 26.4).
So obviously we'll all be hoping for Hamid's three month plan to work like a charm, but regardless of his recovery time someone else is going to get some starts in goal for los Capitalinos this spring. Andrew Dykstra figures to be the frontrunner right now, but the fact that United has brought in trialists Chris Konopka and Paolo Tornaghi is an indicator that the job is very much up for grabs.
Dykstra started United's first game of 2015, and it was frankly a disaster. It's hard to blame the veteran too much, though, as he was walking into what ended up being United's most difficult fixture of the year having not played for months due to a torn achilles he suffered in 2014. As MLS back-ups go, he's a mostly stable option, and his 30 career MLS starts are the most out of the four GKs in camp.
Konopka is likely the favorite among the trialists to land a contract offer. Like Dykstra, he's 30 and has spent most of his MLS career as a back-up. Unlike Dykstra, he's coming off a season spent as a starter more often than not in MLS (Konopka started 21 games for Toronto FC last season). Tornaghi, meanwhile, has 9 total MLS appearances, and none since 2013. However, at 27 years old he does have an advantage as far as age. Dykstra and Konopka are pretty much the finished product, while Tornaghi hasn't hit the peak years for a goalkeeper just yet.
Travis Worra is still under contract, but the plan for him is likely to keep him on loan with the Richmond Kickers so he can get competitive games. As a young player, he's not going to improve without competitive games. In all likelihood, his position in this field is the most secure.
Here's how I'd expect the preseason to play out as far as United's GK situation is concerned: United will pick one player from Konopka and Tornaghi to be the main challenger for Dykstra as the starter in Hamid's absence. Signing that player will likely hinge on how long Hamid is actually going to be out. Do not be surprised if United waits until they have to register players for the CCL before signing another 'keeper.
The reason? If Hamid is only going to be out for a handful of games, United may not want to put him on MLS's injured reserve list. Players must sit out a minimum of six games if added to their team's IR (which frees up a roster spot, but not cap space). United probably won't want to sign a fourth goalkeeper only to have to cut one loose a few weeks later. It's not good for morale, and it's not good for your reputation when approaching other players. In this scenario, United might instead sign a goalkeeper from the NASL or USL on a short-term loan.
Overall, the idea here is either a) to find a better 'keeper than Dykstra or b) push Dykstra to be at his very best. We shouldn't forget that Dykstra seemed to take his game up a level in 2014 when battling for the back-up's job with Joe Willis. It's likely that United would prefer Dykstra's familiarity with the rest of the team, and in an ideal world he'll rise to the occasion while being backed up by a trustworthy player through the spring.