Olympic Qualifying: Hamid sees Howard as inspiration
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bill Hamid had the best seat in LP Field on Thursday night. He got to watch from his own net, some 60 yards away from the action, as his US Under-23 teammates totally dominated 10-man Cuba in a 6-0 victory to open both sides' CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
Relaxing, no? You'd think, but Hamid tells a different story.
"It may seem like there's not a lot to do, but there's still a lot of organizing," he told MLSsoccer.com before training on Friday. "A lot of the play creation comes through me. So I still have to be attentive throughout the whole 90 minutes. You never know when any slight thing can happen and it leads to a chance on their part."
His attentiveness was rewarded soon after the US went up 3-0. Cuban attacker Heviel Cordovés beat Ike Opara and ripped a shot toward the American net. Hamid dove and tipped it wide for his only save of the match.
Senior team netminder Tim Howard has gone through his fair share of dominating American performances – think a 4-0 victory over El Salvador and a 6-1 defeat of Cuba – but has the D.C. United No. 1 picked the Everton's man’s brain for tips about staying focused?
"Tim Howard's more of a motivator to me and an all-around friend," Hamid said. "We like to talk about stuff outside the field, which is cool."
On the field, however, he absorbs lessons from the master.
"I learn from his game and watching him in national team camps,” Hamid said of the US No. 1. "I just get a sense of how calm he stays during 90 minutes. I feed off of him."
Hamid knows being a backstop is not all about saving the other team's shots. It also involves providing an outlet for his backline, especially with the skilled, possession-oriented U-23 squad. He can't just boot the ball back upfield. That requires a deft touch with his right and left feet, a talent he's working to improve.
"I'm very comfortable with my foot skills, and we work a lot on them," he said. "It's a good chance to get my feet better. Some of the best 'keepers in the world are good with both feet. You got the Pepe Reinas, the Iker Casillas. It's a good opportunity for me to get my feet and [for us to] play through the back."
When the US match up against Canada on Saturday (7 pm ET, Universal Sports Network, CONCACAF.com, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com), Hamid will likely be called upon to make a few more saves than against the Cubans.
But even if he is not, don't get out a beach chair for the ‘keeper. There's never a dull moment in net. Hamid wouldn't have it any other way.