Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bill Hamid makes strides despite adversity

USMNT garb is a good look for DC United's Bill Hamid.

Every player expects to encounter patches of turbulence, times when the game seems to push back, but nothing could've prepped Bill Hamid for 2012. 

The trouble started at the death of the Olympic qualifiers. In the final group game for the U.S. U-23 national team against El Salvador, Hamid charged out to handle a cross late in the first half and sprained his ankle. It wasn't long until El Salvador scored twice for a 2-1 lead and Hamid had to make way for Sean Johnson. With a 3-2 lead into second-half stoppage time, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the U.S. would progress to the semis.

Later that night, Hamid was sitting on the bench with an ice pack wrapped around his ankle when Johnson let a ball slip past him in injury time to end the Olympic team's hopes of qualifying for London. The locker room was quiet. No one was moving much.

"It was difficult to deal with because you feel like you let a lot of people down, you let your friends down," Hamid told NSC. "I feel like I let my family down and every other player on the team felt the same way. It was a very sad locker room to move back to."

But Hamid's trial was only beginning. While he'd been away, DC United moved on with rookie netminder Joe Willis between the sticks. Hamid started the season opener but Willis started the next four games while Hamid was away on Olympic duty, which included a pair of shutouts. Unwilling to upset the balance, coach Ben Olsen opted to keep rolling with the hot hand even as Hamid returned to full training in time to potentially start for the New England game on April 14.

Being kept on the bench not long after being stung by Olympic disappointment was a bitter pill to take.

"It took a little longer than expected to get my form back," Hamid said. "I wasn't happy at all walking into the locker room every day. My head wasn't really into it."

As fate would have it, Olsen propped the door back open for Hamid the next month. The morning after San Jose put five goals past Willis on May 2, Hamid was told he was starting United's next game against Toronto. He didn't have much time. It was only a three-day turnaround from one game to the next, and he'd have to re-acclimate to his defenders and midfielders essentially on the plane trip from San Jose to Toronto.

Nonetheless, Hamid was back.

"(It felt) so good," Hamid said. "It was a quick turnaround, so I had to get ready real fast. We had to travel from San Jose to Toronto. Once we found out I was in goal and we all got situated again, it worked out well."

Until earning a red card in a 4-0 loss to Houston last week, Hamid started nine consecutive games and helped lead United to a 6-3-0 run that saw them leap to the top of the East. That run included four shutouts, one of which came in his first game back.

At this point in his career, Hamid is still accruing learning experiences, and the past few months certainly apply. Still, the onus of expectation yoked on the young hulking keeper is hard to ignore. So how does he feel about being labeled "The Next Tim Howard?" Is it even fair?

"It's wild," Hamid said. "I don't like being compared to Tim Howard. Tim's just my buddy, man. He's just my friend. That's an honor, but that's a lot to live up to."

The two text frequently, and Howard has taken Hamid under his wing in a sense to guide the young keeper, who many view as Howard's eventual successor.

"I ask him for advice, small things like career, contracts, coaches, how to approach things on field," Hamid said. "I need that. I feel like every young player needs that older player to mentor him through things. There's a lot of things in this business that can hurt young players."

Another mentor has been Tom Perrin, a sports psychologist who helped work Charlie Davies through a scoring slump last year. Perrin worked with Hamid after the Olympic disappointment and helped keep his spirits high through his period on the bench. Now, with his injury behind him and the smoldering remains of the Olympics fueling his competitive fire, Hamid can't help but be optimistic.

"It's made me a lot stronger," Hamid said. "I'm still a young guy and I'm still learning. I'm never going to stop learning. I'm a true student of this game. I just want to maximize my potential."

Just 21, Hamid has a wealth of time to do just that.

- Will Parchman


brian said...

sean johnson > bill hamid

dutchtwista said...

yeah, i had the same thought. I mean, Hamid's clearly got potential too, but Johnson has looked readier for prime time this year and last.

Will Parchman said...

It's so hard to accurately judge keepers this young. Johnson is 23. Hamid is 21. That's like 12 and 10 years old in keeper years (rough measurement mine). Timmy may play another six or seven years, and a lot can happen in that span.

UnitedDemon said...

Hamid's is infinitely more gifted than Johnson. For him, it's about cutting out a few weaknesses- balls served in sometimes causes problems, and his huge body can be a hinderance when rushing a player.

But Johnson doesn't impress me all that much in comparison. He makes saves look difficult rather than easy; Hamid's athleticism and natural ability with more experience will yield a NT goalkeeper.

brian said...

sean johnson is 6'3" 217 lbs, nearly the same size as hamids 'huge body' (6'3" 225lbs). you clearly don't watch too many fire games. Sean Johnson is a better shot stopper, distributor and better at winning balls in the air. i hope the 2 of them battle for years to come to become the successor of timmy.

Jay said...

That we have two keepers of this potential in the same 'generation' is a g*ddamn blessing. Each one is aware that the other has his sights on being the US #1, and that will keep them both driven. Can you imagine if Brad Guzan had someone pressuring him as "best young keeper in the US" four years ago?

As it is, it doesn't matter if Hamid is better than Johnson right now, or the other way around. They're both going to be boss in five years.

Unknown said...

I'm not going to comment on who is better between hamid and Johnson, but Hamid appears to be a great young man.

I met Hamid briefly last week at a DC United practice/Goalie training clinic. Hamid couldn't have been more polite or accomodating to everyone. He appears to have a good head on his shoulders.

Give him five more years of experience and he is going to be a beast.

dikranovich said...

which keeper was it that kept usa out of the olympics?

brian said...

which keeper was it that kept usa out of the olympics?

both, hamid and johnson