HARRISON, N.J. – Bill Hamid, shirtless and still bounding with energy despite being ejected from the match in the 69th minute, no longer was the goat.
As reporters gathered around him in a boisterous D.C. United locker room following Thursday’s 1-0 victory over New York, he floated about and addressed the contingent – perhaps coming closer to preaching than speaking.
“If you watch the replay, he jumped over me,” Hamid said dismissively, still vehemently disagreeing with the red card referee Mark Geiger issued him after he slid and brought down New York’s Kenny Cooper in the box.
“But I have five words,” he continued. “They can’t hold us back. That is it. They can’t hold us back. That’s all I’ve got to say. Thank you very much.”
Despite Hamid’s red card in the late stages of the second half and the Red Bulls being awarded a penalty kick, United managed to again defy the odds and advance to the Eastern Conference Championship on aggregate, 2-1.
“We bailed another guy out,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “We bailed Bill out. That’s the M.O. of this team right now. They continue to do that. When the chips are down, there’s a certain spirit about them.”
Hamid’s replacement, Joe Willis, stepped on the field cold. Cooper scored on his first penalty attempt, but Geiger called encroachment on the play. When Cooper tried again, this time to Willis’ left, the playoff-bearded goalkeeper made the save.
“He’s very passionate,” Willis said of Hamid. “He cares about the team, he cares about our cause. After watching the replay, I thought he was unfortunate to get the red card.”
Immediately after Geiger called the penalty, D.C.’s 21-year-old ’keeper dropped to his knees in front of the official and begged him to reconsider. Then the players and officials shifted to the corner where Hamid urged Geiger, while pointing at the video board at Red Bull Arena, to “watch the replay.”
It’s not the first time Hamid was shown a straight red for a tackle this season. Against Houston in July – ironically enough, the team United will play in the Eastern finals – he upended Mac Kandji in a match D.C. lost 4-0.
After calming down, albeit slightly, Hamid again addressed the media.
“This team is special,” he said. “This team is very, very special. From one to 30, it’s a bunch of guys with extreme character. … This is a great, close-knit group. Yo, we all love each other. That’s it.”
Prior to being sent off, Hamid was sublime, making five saves to keep D.C.’s season alive, despite heavy pressure from New York. He stoned midfielder Dax McCarty’s left-footed flick at point-blank range in the 64th minute, also denied McCarty in the 18th and did the same to Thierry Henry in the 27th.
“He kept us in that game,” Olsen said of Hamid. “I have to see the saves again, but it looked like the third one [against McCarty] was unbelievable. It was a point-blank save. When he stands up and plays big and doesn’t guess, he’s a very, very strong goalkeeper.”
Center back Brandon McDonald, who helped steady a backline playing without two of its first-choice starters (Andy Najar and Chris Korb), offered nothing but support for his goalkeeper, who will miss the first leg of Sunday’s match at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“Keep your head up,” McDonald said. “We’re a team. We don’t do this individually. We do this as a unit and for each other.”