BY MITCHELL NORTHAM
WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s win vs. Chivas USA last Sunday marked the club’s third consecutive victory and put D.C. within arm’s reach of first place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, trailing Sporting Kansas City by a single point.
As important as the victory was, its significance went well beyond the three points earned, particularly for Bill Hamid.
The match was Hamid’s 100th game played in MLS and in a D.C. United uniform, making him the youngest goalkeeper to accomplish the feat and MLS’s first homegrown player to do so as well.
“It means the world to me, honestly,” Hamid said of his 100 games after the win over Chivas USA. “I’m extremely grateful for the time and the trust that MLS and D.C. United have put into me. I just want to reward them with my play and reward my teammates who trust in me with some good saves.”
But this isn’t the first time Hamid has been the first or youngest to do something in MLS. In 2009 he became the first D.C. United academy player to sign with the first team and in 2010 he became the youngest goal keeper in MLS history to win a game, beating Tim Howard’s record by just a few days.
For Hamid, 100 games ranks right up there with his other career milestones.
“It ranks right up there with all of them,” Hamid said. “Any accolade you can get is special.”
Just a day before that milestone match, the 2014 MLS All Star rosters were announced and Hamid’s name was among those listed to play against Bayern Munich on August 6 in Portland, Oregon. It marked the first time Hamid had been named an all-star.
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen could tell that the selection meant a bit more Hamid.
“I know it means a lot to him to be on the all-star team,” Olsen said. “Some guys could take it or leave it, but Bill is a guy where that means a lot to him; you could see it when we told him and he certainly deserves it.”
Hamid echoed Olsen’s comments and admitted that he is excited to showcase his talent for MLS with and against some of the top soccer players in the world.
“I got a little emotional because I didn’t expect it, but now I’m excited for it,” Hamid said. “I’m looking forward to proving myself and looking forward to proving the talent that MLS produces. We produce great talent and great goal keepers, so now it’s just about proving it on the field.”
D.C. United currently sit near the top of the table in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-5-4 and, while the awards and milestones are piling up for Hamid, he knows how far this club has come from just a season ago. The 2013 season was a nightmare in many ways, with D.C. posting the worst record in MLS history.
For Hamid, the biggest difference in a year is the mentality of the team.
“The players that have been brought in – the veterans, the draft picks – everybody that has been brought in they have a strong mentality,” Hamid said. “They go into the game with the right mindset and we stay together, we believe in each other and that’s the biggest difference from last year and we’re gaining success off of it.
“When you approach training in a different way with the right mentality and when you approach games with the right mentality and when you prepare the right way physically and mentally then you will see a positive outcome and that’s what we see this year.”
Training sessions are a big part of what Hamid points to as a key part of the turnaround from a season ago. One of the luxuries he and the other players have had for the past few weeks is being able to train with former U.S. Men’s National Team defender Oguchi Onyewu, who has been training in Washington while he awaits his next contract offer.
“It’s great,” Hamid said. “With Gooch, I’ve bounced ideas off of him, I’ve asked him questions about soccer, about Europe, about MLS and about his career that he has been blessed to have and to have played for some big clubs around the world.
“Bouncing ideas off of him and asking him questions is something I’ll continue to do.”
While Hamid contributed some success to having a center back like Onyewu in training sessions, he also claimed a big part of their success has been the off season additions of defenders to the first team.
“It’s great having (Bobby Boswell) around,” Hamid said. “He’s a strong guy, he’s vocal, he’s great positioning-wise and really all of (the D.C. United defenders) are. Jeff Parke and Steve Birnbaum as well, they’re all doing great. They put themselves in great spots, they’re tenacious and they get the job done.”
While Hamid humbly credits others for D.C. United’s success this season, he has had just as significant of a role in the team’s success as any other player on the squad. So far this season, Hamid has one of the highest saves percentages at 73 percent and has allowed just 17 goals in 15 games, along with four shutouts this season.
For the stats and his exceptional play in the net, Hamid credits his goalkeeping coach, Preston Burpo.
“He’s taught me a lot,” Hamid said. “I think the most important thing would be just keeping my head; just keep staying as even keel as possible and being just as professional as possible. I’m very grateful for the lessons that he has given me.”
With the 2014 season at its mid-way point, Hamid has his eyes set on not just the all-star game, but playing in CONCACAF Champion’s League for the first time in his career. D.C. United will host Kingston, Jamaica’s Waterhouse F.C. on August 20 in the group stage of Champion’s League; an experience Hamid has watched before, but never played in.
“My first year with D.C. United I couldn’t play in MLS games but I could play in Champions League and I sat on the bench for a game against San Juan Jabloteh, which we won 1-0,” Hamid said. “Just seeing that experience that in Trinidad and Tobago was special, so I know what we’re getting into and I’m very excited for it.”