The next American goalkeeping sensation is D.C. United teenager Bill Hamid. At least, that’s according to the last player who carried the title.
“He’s one that has a lot of potential, but it’s almost too early to tell,” US backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan told MLSsoccer.com last week. “I think he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and a fantastic athlete, and I think if he can keep going in the right direction, he’ll be alright.”
Guzan knows a thing or two about continuing the American tradition of sensational goalkeepers, which started in earnest with Brad Friedel’s exodus to Europe in the mid-1990s. The list famously includes Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann and Guzan, the former Chivas USA star who leveraged his solid start in MLS into a burgeoning career with Aston Villa.
Up next could be Hamid, United’s young phenom who turns 20 in November. He became the first D.C. United Academy player to sign with the first team in Sept. 2009, and made his professional debut against the Wizards on May 5.
Watch: Hamid debuts in style
Hamid became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history in the start, beating the mark Howard set as a promising teenager with the MetroStars in August 1998.
He was also the first choice for the US U-17/18 Academy Team last summer, when he crossed paths with Guzan in Washington.
“He needs the experiences, the games,” Guzan said. “But I think once you get him that, you’ll have a better judgment of where he’s at and where he’s gonna go.”
Guzan and Howard said last week during the US team’s training in Philadelphia that that while a host of young players are making the jump directly to Europe without MLS experience, goalkeepers usually need the extra minutes to make a successful transition.
“I think for goalkeeping, it’s a very good route because it allows young goalkeepers to get games,” Howard said. “It worked out for myself, for Marcus and for Brad. Even Brad Friedel played in MLS. I think it’s a great avenue for young goalkeepers. There are other routes, but it’s one that has worked well.”
Added Guzan: “Sometimes you have guys who simply aren’t mature enough to make the jump yet.”
Still, earning the title of next star American goalkeeper isn’t always a blessing. Philadelphia Union youngster Chris Seitz was once part of the conversation, thanks to two formative and successful years at Maryland and a stint with the U-23 team in 2007.
He’s fallen off the radar ever since, however, and has struggled mightily at times as the anchor of the expansion side’s young backline this season.
Seitz was Real Salt Lake’s top pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, but languished behind MLS veteran Nick Rimando until he was traded to Philadelphia in November. That time on the bench and away from the game, Guzan said, hindered Seitz’s development.
“You saw what happened to him when he didn’t play for a couple of years,” Guzan said. “For him, right now, he’s hit a rough spot. But we all have, that’s just part of the position. To have that confidence and not lose it during tough times, that’s very important.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a very good goalkeeper,” Guzan added. “He’ll bounce back for sure, it’s just a matter of getting comfortable again.”