The popularity of Major League Soccer has risen rapidly in recent years with the addition of international superstars like Andrea Pirlo and David Villa. In the nation’s capital, however, it is the return of local legend Bill Hamid that has D.C. United fans excited for the 2016 season.
The talented 25-year-old shot-stopper has missed the last four months, and D.C.’s first 13 games, due to a follow-up procedure on the knee he injured last July.
“It’s been all about patience, and getting my body as strong as possible,” Hamid explained during an interview with On Tap. “I’ve been working hard [in] rehab, and I’m ready.”
Beloved by fans for his roots in nearby Annandale, Va., Hamid grew up playing travel soccer for his father, a native of Sierra Leone, who is still the first person to hyperanalyze his game films and tell him where he can improve. He credits his family, and his hometown, for his success.
“It impacted me tremendously,” Hamid explained. “When you look at the different cultures and ethnicities coming out of Annandale, you get to see the way different styles of soccer are played, and learn about different cultures. That helped me a lot in my growth process.”
During his rehabilitation, Hamid has occupied his mind by taking French classes at the Alliance Francaise.
“I’ve been enjoying it,” Hamid said of his latest intellectual endeavor. “It keeps me busy, and my mind working. I’ll have to back off now that I am back on the field.”
Hamid’s return will come at a great time for the Black-and-Red. With 23 games remaining, the team sits just three points from the top, but also only two points from missing the playoffs, in a wide-open Eastern Conference race.
“It’s still early in the season, teams are building and no one in the Eastern Conference has found their groove yet,” he observed. “If we can develop chemistry and consistency in our performance level, we will put ourselves in a great position by the end of the year.”
Hamid was the model of consistency in 2014, saving 75 percent of his shots, accumulating 10 clean sheets, winning goalkeeper of the year, and helping D.C. United claim the Eastern Conference regular season title.
“No fear,” Hamid declared. “I got here by putting my body on the line to make the saves my team needs, and no injury is going to change the way I play the game.”
Although the time off will force Hamid to miss this year’s Copa America, the USMNT’s number three keeper has every intention of getting back to the squad as soon as he can.
“Like anyone who has been around the national team, I know the training sessions and what they expect. It will be important for me to watch those games very closely, and work hard with my trainer to come back and prove myself to my team and country.”
Hamid will also have his eye on the UEFA Euro 2016, where he has a rooting interest in England, due to time he spent with coach Roy Hodgson on a visit to West Bromwich Albion in 2011.
“Roy’s a great coach” Hamid applauded. “I saw the way he manages his team and has them play out of the back, and if they can implement that properly, they’re overdue for a big tournament win.”
While he occasionally gathers with friends to catch a game at a local pub, Hamid prefers staying in to study the games with the same analytical approach he learned from his father, and uses now to continually improve his game.
“I’ve got to get the DVR ready,” he said with a smile. “There’s going to be a lot of great soccer on this summer.”
Photo: Tony Quinn, D.C. United03