photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Bill Hamid may still be recovering from the shoulder injury that derailed his standout rookie season with D.C. United in 2010, but that hasn't stopped him from setting lofty goals as he heads into his second full season as a pro.
Along with aiming to make a full recovery in time to earn United's starting goalkeeper spot, a more fit and slimmer Hamid is hoping to help the club bounce back from the disastrous season it suffered last year, a tall order considering United finished 6-20-4.
That record means little to Hamid though, as he believes the squad in place now is capable of a complete turnaround and capable of fulfilling its goal of reaching the MLS playoffs.
"We're looking good. We're scoring goals off of four or five passes," said Hamid. "We're doing things that we didn't do last year. Right now, I'm really excited for this season.
"My goal right now is to help get this team to the playoffs. I wouldn't mind being goalkeeper of the year, but my goal is just to work as hard as possible so we can become the force that we once were."
Hamid still hasn't been cleared to resume full training, but he is the odds-on favorite to be United's starter when it opens the season against the Columbus Crew on March 19. Steve Cronin, Hamid's main competition for the starting spot, is expected to miss 8-10 weeks after suffering a broken wrist, leaving Hamid as head coach Ben Olsen's top choice in goal.
"A lot of times when guys are out, they come with something to prove, and we've challenged Bill to come be our starter, and hopefully he's up to that challenge," said Olsen. "But first thing is, he's got to get healthy and get ready for what hopefully is a big year for him."
The 6-foot-3, 220 pound Hamid may not be fully cleared to play yet, but he feels he's about two weeks away from returning to full action.
As for the right shoulder which underwent surgery during the offseason, Hamid isn't bothered by it.
"It's good, it''s good. I'm able to dive and do everything I want to do right now," said Hamid, who played in eight league games in 2010. "But right now it's the precaution stage. It's the stage where you just want to take it easy right before you start going all out."
If Hamid improves on some of the flashes of brilliance he demonstrated last season, he should be D.C. United's starting goalkeeper for much of the season, assuming he stays healthy.
That would help the 20-year-old Hamid in his quest to play for the U.S. national team in the 2012 Olympics.
"Camps will probably start near the end of this year so therefore that's obviously a goal for me," said Hamid. "I know I'm on the radar for the USA squad, so I'm definitely pushing to try and be the starter for that team if I can."
Hamid won't elaborate on whether or not coaches in the national team system have been in contact with him, but one national team-related topic he isn't secretive about is trialist Charlie Davies, who is attempting to secure a season-long loan to D.C. United from FC Sochaux.
Davies has yet to complete negotiations with United, as the club attempts to see just how physically fit he is 14 months removed from a fatal car accident which left him several injuries. Still, Hamid believes Davies has done enough to secure the loan.
"Charlie is Charlie. He's one of the best USA has brought up," said Hamid. "Seeing him in practice and playing, you have to get excited. The fans have to get excited about Charlie Davies. He's going to score goals for us and we're going to be there to back him up."
Hamid also has kind things to say about Olsen, who is entering his first full season as United's head coach.
"Ben's like the commander, like the general," said Hamid. "It's different. I've never really felt like I'm fighting for the general. I feel like I'm a cadette in his army. It feels good. The guys want to fight for him."
Those "guys" include veteran offseason acquisitions Josh Wolff and Dax McCarty, captain Santino Quaranta, and 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar. All those players will need to contribute to United's cause this season if things are to go better than they did in 2010.
To help make that happen, Olsen will likely give Najar more freedom to control United's attack this season. That doesn't mean that Najar will be the only youngster United relies heavily upon this season, though.
Considering Cronin's injury, and how well Hamid looked at certain times last year, the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to record a win is surely going to be a focal point for United in 2011 as it attempts to get back to the playoffs.
That's a challenge Hamid is ready for, and one he feels he's prepared for after a strong but short rookie season.
"Everything about my game. I learned a lot getting on the field and getting experience (last season), and looking at past games and all that stuff," said Hamid. "Looking at the next season, the new team, I feel like everything that I learned last year I'll be able to bring to this year and be a success."