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Black History Month: You can’t hold him back

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Bill Hamid started off as the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history and has become one of America’s very best.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer’s academies have been developing young talent and over the years, we’ve seen more and more of those players signed to teams and making their professional debut at a young age. For Bill Hamid, when he stepped on the field for the first time for D.C. United, he made league history.

Bill Hamid was born in Annandale, Virginia (located in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area) to parents who came from Sierra Leone. He excelled as a goalkeeper very early on and caught the eyes of D.C. United, who identified him for their academy. There, he became a star, and the team began to consider him as the future starting goalkeeper for the senior team.

That future came quickly, and in September 2009, D.C. United signed Hamid to a professional contract. He was the first player from D.C. United’s academy to make it to the first team. He started out as the backup goalkeeper, but then got his chance on May 5, 2010, earning his first start. He earned a 2-1 win that day against the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City), and with that win he made history. He became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to win a game in the league, at 19 years 161 days (just 4 days younger than previous record holder Tim Howard was when he earned his first victory). The rest of the season, he was still mainly the backup for Troy Perkins. However, when the 2011 season came around, Hamid was the man.

He started 28 matches in 2011, and after the season he went on trial with Premier League club West Bromwich Albion. However, he eventually returned to D.C. United for the 2012 season. That same offseason, he had his first call-up to the United States Men’s National Team. He had played for the U-18s and U-20s, but the 2012 January Camp was his first camp with the senior team. He made his USMNT debut on January 21, 2012 against Venezuela in a friendly. He earned the clean sheet, becoming the 9th USMNT goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in their debut start.

Bill Hamid was the man for D.C. United in 2012, serving as the primary starter as the team went to the playoffs for the first time in 4 seasons. In the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals against rival New York Red Bulls, Hamid got sent off for a tackle inside the penalty area. When backup goalkeeper Joe Willis saved the ensuing penalty, an ecstatic Hamid celebrated in the tunnel with words that would become a rallying cry: “You can’t hold us back!”

United would go on to win that match and advance to the Eastern Conference final, where they would fall to the Houston Dynamo.

Bill Hamid would finally earn some hardware in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, despite having the worst season in MLS history, D.C. United made a miraculous run to win the 2013 U.S. Open Cup in the 100th year of the competition. Hamid was the man between the posts for United in the 1-0 victory against Real Salt Lake. The following season, United would complete the greatest turnaround in league history, going from worst in 2013 to finishing first in the Eastern Conference. Hamid’s efforts that year were rewarded as he was named the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Hamid remained with D.C. United for 3 more seasons. He also had a few spot starts for the USMNT, and was on the roster for the USMNT teams that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013 and 2017. In October 2017, Hamid signed with FC Midtjylland in Denmark, joining the team in January 2018. While the team won the Danish Superliga that season, he was just the backup goalkeeper and only made 1 league appearance and a couple Danish Cup starts. In search of more playing time, he secured an 18-month loan back to D.C. United in August 2018.

His return to United has been nothing short of spectacular. Finding himself back in familiar surroundings, his play rose to another level. D.C. United made the move permanent just a couple months ago, agreeing to a new deal with the 29-year-old. He also has returned to the field for the USMNT, with head coach Gregg Berhalter calling him into January Camp and giving the goalkeeper some substitute minutes in a friendly victory against Costa Rica. He’s entering 2020 playing his best soccer and ready to lead his team to more silverware.

Bill Hamid already has the most wins and clean sheets in D.C. United history, and by the time his playing days are done, he could hold the records for most appearances and minutes played. Hamid is proof that while there is a lot of black history that is documented, some of it has not yet been written. As the 2020 season begins on Saturday, Bill Hamid’s ready to write the next chapter of his story for club and country with these words: “They can’t hold us back! That is it. They can’t hold us back! That’s all I gotta say, thank you very much!”

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For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.