BRADENTON, Fla. —Bill Hamid has developed a reputation over the years as an excellent shot-stopper and aggressive presence in the penalty area, two of his biggest strengths as a goalkeeper.
What you won’t often see listed as one of his strengths, however, is his passing ability. D.C. United’s style of play isn’t one that has required him to be much of a passer, and as a result he hasn’t had to develop his passing ability the way some other goalkeepers playing on possession-oriented teams have had to.
That has led to a reputation in American soccer circles that Hamid isn’t a good passer of the ball, which is what is widely-believed to have been why Hamid hadn’t been called in by U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter before his recent invite to the January camp.
Hamid adamantly disputes the notion that he’s a bad passer, calling it an undeserved label.
“Who made that knock? That was fake news,” Hamid said at USMNT camp on Thursday. “So far we’ve had a friendly and I completed every pass. In training sessions I’ve been doing well with the ball at my feet. I guess a few people decided to make that up and a lot of people that ran with it.
“At D.C., we play a certain way. It’s not always play out of the back, we don’t have that expectation,” Hamid said. “People make that assumption, that I can’t play out of the back, but I know what I’m capable of doing. I know how to adapt, with the years of experience that I have. I’m glad that I’m here, to be able to show him that, but also to be able to learn a different style of play and just continue growing because I don’t want to stop learning.”
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 16, 2020
Hamid is coming off what was arguably the best season of his career. He finished second in the voting for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year after helping D.C. United post the best defensive record in the league in 2019.
The 29-year-old goalkeeper’s impressive form last season made his continued absence from the national team a lingering talking point, which led to the belief that Berhalter didn’t consider him to be well-suited for his possession-based system, which puts major demands on the goalkeeper.
“The conversation that we had prior to the camp was based around coming in and being a leader, using my experience to come in and just marshal the group,” Hamid said. “He let me that it was going to be a young group prior to the camp so I knew what to expect.
“Coming in and meeting all these guys, great players, doing well for their clubs, young players, and a good amount of players that are eligible for Olympic qualifying,” Hamid said. “It’s about us getting obviously fit and continuing to build that process with the senior team, but then helping that younger group to prepare for the qualifying, which begins in March.”
When asked whether his long wait for a USMNT return ever got to him, Hamid revealed that he had been on constant communication with the national team even though he didn’t earn any call-ups in 2019.
“There were a couple of times when I spoke to Gregg, there were a couple of times where Nico came to our training sessions to observe, one of the assistant coaches,” Hamid said. “He told me to stay patient, and keep working. He told me certain things he wanted me to work on and I just kept plugging away. Thankfully defensively as a unit we had a good showing last year and I think that worked in my favor a little bit. Now I’ve just come in here and my goal is to do what I do, and like he said, be a leader.”
Berhalter has never come out and said that Hamid’s passing was an issue, or the main reason why it took a year for Hamid to earn his first call-up for Berhalter, but the USMNT manager spoke on Friday like a coach who has been happy with what he has seen from the D.C. United veteran.
“The best thing is that Bill’s trying,” Berhalter said. “The guy comes into camp and immediately getting out of his comfort zone and trying things. We put him in small possession exercises, he fits right in. He’s done a good job.”
Hamid hadn’t been in a USMNT camp since November 2018, and insisted he was a much better goalkeeper than he was then. The 29-year-old also admitted that his experience during the year he spent at Danish club Mitdjylland helped him develop his game, even though he ultimately didn’t play there much before returning to D.C. United.
“(It was an) amazing experience at Mitdjylland, on and off the field,” Hamid said. “I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about football. Different styles of play, different formations of play. How to affect the game as a goalkeeper in the back, not only with my voice but also how to build out of the back too, in their 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 systems.
“So I learned a lot, and we were champions also so it was a good experience, memories that I’ll take forever,” Hamid said. “It kind of gave me that little bit of knowledge that I needed to learn how to go throughout the year and help a group push towards a championship so hopefully I can take those things that I learned, take it back to D.C., build a solid team, create a good foundation in preseason and push for a title.”
Hamid has never lacked for confidence, and he heads into the final year of his 20s believing his best years are still to come, and believing he is a more well-rounded goalkeeper than he is given credit for being.
“I’m not out here to convince the fans and the media that I’m the best passer in the country,” Hamid said. “I’m out here to help my team, whatever team it is, whether it’s D.C. United or the U.S. national team, first and foremost keep a shutout and do whatever it takes to get results.”