WASHINGTON – D.C. United are set for an epic showdown – between teammates.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid is close to full fitness following an ankle injury he picked up during the Olympic qualifying tournament. In his absence, Joe Willis was busy making a name for himself, allowing just four goals in four games while picking up two clean sheets.
Now it’s going to be up to United’s coaches to make the critical decision of whose job it is to protect the goal.
“It will be tough [to decide], but it will be a nice problem to have,” United goalkeeper coach Pat Onstad told MLSsoccer.com. “You always want competition for positions, and [Willis] has obviously done really well for us in the four games he has had.”
Hamid’s status for Saturday’s game at New England (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online) is listed as questionable, same as last week during the team's 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders. That means he will likely not be part of the 18-man roster on Saturday, but it’s just a matter of time before he is fully fit.
“He’s come back to training, but he is still just trying to get his timing down,” Onstad said of the 21-year-old. “He’s been out for a couple of weeks, but he is pretty much picking up right where he left off.”
It’s not as if Hamid (above right) has given the coaches reasons to ponder sitting him, either. In his only MLS match this season, he made several critical saves against Sporting Kansas City before conceding an unpreventable header in stoppage time as United lost 1-0.
But Willis has stepped in admirably for Hamid – he made several huge saves early in a win against Dallas and kept both Seattle and Vancouver off the score sheet.
Onstad admitted that there is not a true No.1 in the coaches’ minds, and that practices and training would determine week in and out who will start on the weekend.
“They are both young guys, and they are going to have their ups and downs, as young goalkeepers,” Onstad said. “But the guy who is playing the best that week is probably the guy who will see the field.”
Hamid has been seen as one of the future ‘keepers for the senior US national team ever since he signed with D.C. as an 18-year-old in September of 2009. Slowly brought along, the Virginia native was given the full reins to the position last season and showed his worth, despite the high number of goals conceded by the Black and Red.
However, Willis, who is in his second year after being drafted out of the University of Denver, has given hope to United if Hamid ever leaves for greener pastures. The only problem now is that even now the 23-year-old Willis is presenting a strong case to be picked over the incumbent.
“He was excited this year to get the opportunity to play,” Onstad said of Willis. “He knew with Bill being with the Olympic team that he was most likely going to get some games, so he came into preseason with that in mind, and he has taken his opportunity well.”