SAN JOSE, Calif.—When the San Jose Earthquakes entered a weighted lottery for the services of All-America goalkeeper David Bingham, there wasn’t much more hope than you’d get from a scratch-off ticket at your local convenience store.
Even though Bingham grew up in the Bay Area and went to school just down the road at Cal, San Jose had only an 8.8-percent chance of acquiring his services, putting the Quakes behind four other teams with better odds.
Nevertheless, the Quakes came out victorious, giving them a future All-Star and US national teamer who has grown into his role as a full-time starter with the Quakes’ move to Avaya Stadium. Flourishing as the No. 1 under coach Dominic Kinnear, the 27-year-old set a franchise record for shutouts in 2015 with an even dozen and has become one of the best-known faces of the Quakes’ franchise – a man willing to stop a shot on the pitch and take one off of it.
Stars: They carpool just like us
Bingham owns a house in San Ramon, making him one of only a handful of San Jose players to live in the East Bay. Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski lives in the neighboring town of Danville, so the teammates will carpool into work together a few times a week.
The conversation can find the duo debating whether assistant John Spencer or Steve Ralston is the one stealing the yogurts that belong to head coach Dominic Kinnear out of the fridge.
“We just horse around,” Bingham said. “I don’t know if it’s like office talk, because we’re together six days a week, every week. We both grew up there, so it’s nice to be able to own a home in your hometown.”
Let's take my car
Wondolowski appreciates the days when it’s Bingham’s turn to drive. With two young daughters, Wondolowski’s ride is full of preschool accoutrements: sippy cups, kids’ clothes, Barbie dolls and “a Moana doll that goes off every so often.”
So the idea of sitting in Bingham’s well-appointed BMW sedan is a little bit like a personal car service for the Quakes’ captain.
“It is,” Wondolowski said with a laugh. “It’s a nice clean car, I just sit in the front and don’t mind his music. He likes country.”
Putting aside a bad result
Somehow, Johnny Cash never got around to recording a song about the pressures of living between the posts. If he had, it might contain some of the advice that Bingham tries to follow if he has a performance he’d prefer not to recall.
“You’ve just got to be confident in your abilities and you better have a short memory, because at the end of the day, everyone’s going to have a bad day here and there,” Bingham said. “It’s how you pull yourself out of it and come back in the next couple of games. You don’t want to read stuff because [when] you have a bad game, everyone hates you, and you have a good game, everyone loves you. You try not to get too caught up in that.”
For entertainment purposes only
Bingham is a “movies on the road, TV at home” kind of guy who is looking forward to the latest season of HBO’s series “Game of Thrones.”
So, what GoT character would you be?
“I don’t know,” Bingham said. “They all seem to die early, so hopefully none of them.”
4 million served
Bingham will be one of millions of viewers tuning in when Game of Thrones returns in July. However, he will be in a select minority of that group – people who have themselves been watched by a seven-figure crowd.
Bingham’s first professional highlight has drawn more than 4 million views on YouTube: a goal he scored with a boot from the edge of his own box against then-Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, who came to California for a friendly in 2011. West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, staring into the setting sun at the Quakes’ old home of Buck Shaw Stadium, never saw the ball as it bounced over him and into the open net.
For his part, Bingham was so mad at overshooting his intended target that he wasn’t watching the outcome – his first goal since high school.
“I didn’t even see it go in,” Bingham told reporters at the time. “I hit it and I knew I overhit it, so I just turned around and walked back. And then everyone started yelling … Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.”
A dog’s life
President Harry S. Truman is commonly – if erroneously – credited with the line “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” The same sentiment might hold true for goalkeepers, whose mistakes so often are magnified in the media.
So even if Bingham suffers through a rough night, there is one fan whose loyalty is unwavering: Bandit, Bingham’s black American Labrador retriver.
“It is nice,” Bingham said. “You go home and there’s always a smiling face around and he’s always happy to see you. It’s a lot of fun.”
Ask Bingham what facet of his personality might surprise fans, and he points to his status as a confirmed outdoorsman. He and Bandit routinely go hunting – their favorite targets are ducks and geese – or run in field trials, Bingham’s schedule permitting.
The keeper’s Instagram account reflects his dual interests, interspersing soccer shots with photos of him and Bandit in action.
“If they’ve only seen me around the soccer field and they see how I dress, and have a car [instead of a truck] or whatever, they’d be surprised that I shoot as much as I do and hunt as much as I do,” Bingham said.
On the hunt
Outside of the obvious – good hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes – there’s another similarity between Bingham’s day job and his hunting avocation: Both stoke a hot flame of rivalry between different groups.
“The way I hunt, it’s very competitive,” Bingham said. “It’s on public land, so it’s not like you just walk out and take your time. It’s first-come, first-served, so once you get in, it’s pretty much a race to where you want to go. It’s a lot of work, a lot of early mornings, but it’s definitely fun.”
All in the family
Bingham learned to shoot and hunt long before he became a professional netminder, with guidance provided by his father, Greg, now a retired sergeant with the Oakland Police Department.
“I grew up shooting since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Bingham said. “I started hunting when I was 5 or 6. I kept doing it until high school, and then soccer kind of takes over your life and you’re traveling every weekend. I got back into it after my first year in college, with one of my best friends.”
About those friends …
The sellout crowds at Avaya give plenty of love to Bingham, and while some players might chafe at having so many friends and family members watching their every move, he relishes the chance to perform in front of them on a weekly basis.
“They would say it’s awesome,” Bingham said. “My family comes to every game. I don’t think they’ve missed a home game. A lot of my friends come out to the game, too. This year it’s a lot nicer – a lot of wins, so hopefully we can keep that going.”