WASHINGTON — When Bill Hamid says the losing gets to him, there's no doubt of his sincerity. It's evident not only in his diction but his demeanor. His eyes lower, as does his voice. The man just hates falling short.
That made D.C. United's 2013 campaign a rather unwelcome development. As his club stumbled to a historically inept 3-24-7 record, Hamid writhed under the weight of United's struggles.
"I took it extremely hard," Hamid said. "My attitude and my mood was very sour. The L's so often just took a toll on me personally."
But were it not for United's 22-year-old academy product, that record would have been worse. While Hamid made the occasional youthful error, he also pulled off a slew of saves that kept his side in games it had no business being in.
Hamid's performances were enough to continue impressing U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who has called upon him for friendlies Friday against Scotland and Tuesday versus Austria.
Although Hamid acknowledged that United's myriad defeats simmered in his subconscious throughout the campaign, he always put a given result in the past once practice resumed. The way he saw it, with a fresh week of training came a fresh start.
"How do you deal with losing? How do you deal with that adversity?" asked veteran United midfielder John Thorrington. "He's one of the guys that stood up to the challenge. You can look back and he'll learn from the downtimes, but certainly as a whole be better for it going forward."
For all the suffering, Hamid will emerge from 2013 with his fair share of fond memories as well. Anchoring United's shutout win at Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup final gave Hamid his first title on the club level. And just two months earlier, he relished his first international championship as a member of the U.S. squad that won the Gold Cup.
Even though Hamid was just the third-string goalkeeper on that team, his satisfaction wasn't hindered one bit. His jersey from the tournament is already framed, in fact, along with his gold medal.
Said Hamid: "To be in that environment for a whole summer training — the intensity, the passion that each player, each staff member, each coach had, the games and how we were confident and we just knew that we were going to go on that field and punish whoever was in front of us — the Gold Cup for me is going to be an experience that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
Considering Hamid has already started 85 MLS matches and earned several U.S. call-ups, it's easy to forget the Annandale, Va., native doesn't even turn 23 until later this month. Despite his age, Hamid in four seasons has slid into a leadership role within a D.C. locker room that only has two longer-serving players.
It's the type of maturation that — along with his 6-foot-3 frame and natural skill set — makes Hamid such an enticing prospect for the U.S. program.
"He's gotten a lot better, not just as a leader but as a player," said United midfielder Jared Jeffrey, Hamid's onetime U.S. Under-23 teammate. "He's more confident with his feet, and vocally he's really improved. He's the backbone of our team."
With the World Cup seven months away, Hamid has a mountain to climb if he's planning on making that Brazilian excursion. Veterans Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando have firm grasps on the three roster spots, and 24-year-old Sean Johnson is ahead of Hamid in the pecking order as well.
Hamid understands the nature of being an American goalkeeper: unrivaled depth competing for just one spot on the pitch. But he embraces the challenge.
"This country has been able to provide stellar goalkeepers," Hamid said. "I don't know what it is. Maybe it's growing up playing the other sports? But it's a blessing to be amongst American goalkeepers and to be a part of the system.
"To me, it's motivation to continue growing, to knock those guys off, to move up the ladder."
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