HARRISON, N.J. — Two weeks after it emerged Tim Howard suffered broken bones in his back and would be unavailable for the US national team for these upcoming World Cup qualifiers, US manager Jurgen Klinsmann offered two names to ease the pain:
Brad Guzan, the World Cup veteran and anointed understudy, and Nick Rimando, the wily Real Salt Lake vet who has been a fringe backup for the USMNT over the past 11 years.
Klinsmann then name-dropped Chicago's Sean Johnson, the 23-year-old who has surged ahead in the heir-apparent throne in recent months. And then, a distant fourth, was Bill Hamid, the man the US boss once hand-picked himself as the goalkeeper of the future.
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On Monday, Hamid wasn't among the 23 called Monday ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. But some 20,000 fans who were in the building at Red Bull Arena on Saturday probably aren't overlooking the 22-year-old, 6-foot-3 shot-stopper after one of the finest performances of his career.
“In my book, he’s no doubt the goalie of the future in this country,” United defender Brandon McDonald told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday.
Of course McDonald would support his teammate, especially after a sensational seven-save performance to rescue a point as Hamid and D.C. withstood an offensive onslaught in the New York Red Bulls' home opener. Hamid has blasted out of the gates as arguably the best goalkeeper in the young MLS season, with a league-leading 13 saves and two clean sheets.
But there’s more to it than just championing a friend in your own locker room.
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“You look at how he’s matured over his time in the league,” McDonald continued. “Night and day. And you can see it in his eyes. He’s focused, he wants to be that and he’s gravitating toward taking that by the horns.”
Think back to when Klinsmann first took the US gig, and he was somewhat enamored with Hamid. The German tabbed him to his first camp for a friendly vs. Mexico back in 2011, and Hamid was a regular face in camps. He earned his first senior cap in January of 2012 in a friendly against Venezuela and went on to be part of the platoon – along with Johnson – in the US Under-23s’ ill-fated Olympic qualifying effort last spring. He seemed like he was on the way up.
But Hamid has also shown he can be woefully inconsistent, overly volatile and emotional at the wrong time. Witness his meltdown after being sent off in the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. those same Red Bulls last November.
He freely admits that’s what he has to work on.
WATCH: Henry foiled by Hamid
“Being a better teammate, being a good organizer, that’s part of the game and when I focus on that I feel like things fall in my place much better,” he told reporters after his performance on Saturday that earned him MLS Player of the Week honors.
“It’s been two-and-a-half, three years now that I’ve been like a starter,” he continued. “It’s now time to be consistent and do what I can. I know mistakes happen, but the more you limit them, the better.”
When he puts on a performance like the one he did against New York – using his size, his speed, his instincts and his reaction speed, not to mention expertly organizing a backline that withstood 24 shots – you start to remember why USMNT fans were so excited about him in the first place.
After Hamid returned from his second consecutive January camp, even his coach noticed a difference.
“He is a new man,” Ben Olsen told reporters. “We talk about consistency with him, making sure he is as even-keeled as possible – on and off the field – he is staying big and making big saves, he is making saves he needs to make, but he is also pulling one or two out of his hat that are saveless.”
If Hamid has anything to say about it, he won’t be going unmentioned in these conversations for much longer.