The first of D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s masterful saves against Sherjill MacDonald would have been enough.
Chicago were already ahead by a goal after 20 minutes, and a second goal would have dealt a monumental blow to D.C.’s hopes of securing the Eastern Conference’s second seed with either a win or draw.
Running out to challenge the streaking forward, Hamid elevated his right arm at the perfect time to deflect the ball away from harm. It was a critical stop at a critical moment.
Turns out, Hamid was just getting warmed up.
United’s 21-year-old ’keeper was otherworldly in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Toyota Park, making a career-high eight saves – including another against MacDonald in the 63rd minute – and weathering a frantic late push by the Fire to help extend D.C’s unbeaten streak to seven matches (5-0-2) and lock up the second spot.
United will begin a two-leg series in New York on Nov. 3 or 4 before finishing up the series on Nov. 7 at RFK Stadium.
“He’s become a guy with a real presence in there,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “I’ve talked about his growth, [goalkeeper coach] Pat [Onstad] has talked about his growth. As long as he can continue to stay at this level and be consistent and improve, he’s got an unbelievable future.”
It’d be one thing if Hamid made eight saves and the opportunities by Chicago weren’t threatening – scuffed attempts on net or unassuming lobs. But seemingly all of Hamid’s stops were dynamic, as the Annandale, Va., native wielded his freakishly athletic frame from post-to-post with precision.
“It was us as a team coming together to keep the ball out of the net,” Hamid said. “There was one play where Marcelo [Saragosa] and Nick [DeLeon] came away with a couple of blocks off the goal line. … It was just an amazing defensive team effort once again and we want to continue keeping that consistency on the defensive end.”
In the 63rd minute, MacDonald was the beneficiary of a nifty flick from Gonzalo Segares that left him alone just outside the 6. MacDonald sent a right-footed shot on target that Hamid somehow managed to deny. Hamid’s base was strong in preparation for the shot and he held his arms out wide before diving back and to his left to steer the ball away.
Shortly after, Dominic Oduro got loose and tested Hamid in a one-on-one situation. He, too, was denied. Hamid was sterling through the match’s final minute as well, knocking a left-footed blast from distance by Alex over the crossbar.
During United’s seven-match unbeaten streak, Hamid has allowed five goals and is playing arguably the best soccer of his career at the perfect time.
“We went from last place two years ago to second place two years later,” Hamid said. “That’s huge for us. We’re happy and we’re going to take advantage of it.”