By THOMAS FLOYD
HARRISON, N.J. — When Bill Hamid returned from U.S. national team camp in January, Ben Olsen observed a change in his 22-year-old goalkeeper. The athleticism and instincts have always been there. But there was more polish, more command, more reliability.
As Olsen put it, “He’s a new man.”
“We talk about consistency with him and making sure he’s been as even keel as possible, on and off the field,” the D.C. United coach said. “He’s making the saves he needs to make, but he’s also pulling one or two out of his hat that are saving us.”
That certainly was the case during United’s 0-0 draw at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. While the Red Bulls controlled possession, creating chance after chance, Hamid came up with a slew of show-stopping saves to keep the home side off the board.
“Bill does what he does best, and that’s keep the ball out of the net,” captain Dwayne De Rosario said. “And he did that. He was big time.”
For the final 30 minutes, New York (0-1-2) seemed destined to bag the winner in Mike Petke’s home coaching debut. But Hamid bailed out his back line, making himself big to deny Tim Cahill’s point-blank shot in the 67th minute before reaching back to pull Brandon Barklage’s header off the goal line in stoppage time.
Yes, United (1-1-1) also had luck to thank, with Red Bulls forward Fabian Espindola striking the crossbar twice. But there’s no arguing Hamid was in a zone.
“From a player’s perspective, I think it’s more instinct,” Hamid said. “When it’s late on in a game and things are happening very, very fast and when you necessarily don’t think about it, you just let it come to you, you just do things naturally. That’s when you have your best play.”
In recording back-to-back shutouts, United have leaned on Hamid to not only steer shots aside but also provide a commanding presence in the box, establishing himself as more of a leader in his fourth full season.
While Hamid early in his career has been prone to the occasional mishap — a trio of red cards come to mind — such errors in judgment have been nowhere to be found three games into this 2013 campaign.
“I just want to be consistent and be the best teammate I can,” Hamid said. “Being a better teammate, being a better organizer, that’s part of the game. When I focus in on that, I feel like things fall into place better.”
With U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard sidelined by a back injury, Hamid’s form could earn him consideration to be a backup to Brad Guzan when the roster for two upcoming World Cup qualifiers is announced next week.
When asked if not being in the national team picture — as he wasn’t for nearly a year before his January call-up — fired him up, Hamid offered a simple response: “Of course.”
“It’s no surprise why he’s the goalie of the future,” center back Brandon McDonald said. “He’s matured. He sees what his potential is and he’s trying to achieve it. You can look at him and see that.”