Bill Hamid: Outstanding or Overrated?

For most USMNT fans, Bill Hamid is expected to take over after the Guzan/Howard dust clears. Whether that means he’d start in the 2018 World Cup (at age 27) or the 2022 World Cup (31), the assumption right now is that he’ll get to at least one of those. Last Top 100, I rated DC United backup Andrew Dykstra over Hamid and some people were not happy. I realize Hamid will eventually surpass Dykstra but for Hamid, it’s been a great-save-weak-goal pattern this year. Let’s look at three tendencies that are holding Hamid back.

 

1v1 Technique

Hamid uses the starfish approach for 1v1 situations. There are many people who are advocates of this technique, most notably Tim Howard, who has integrated this approach into his repertoire. The problems that arise with the starfish shape are the massive gaps in between the arms and thighs (one on each side) as well as the gaping five-hole. The hands and arms are not guarding high percentage areas and are simply being thrown into the air. Additionally, Hamid uses it so aggressively that his feet end up jutting out so far forward, causing him to lean back instead of making his body go out wider. It turns it into more of a standing tackle than a sliding one. To compare, German legend Manuel Neuer does something similar but his body shape is more upright as well as having one knee to protect the five-hole.

Here’s a great 1v1 save by Hamid that put him in the running for MLS Save of the Week while using the starfish technique.

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In this particular save, he times the shot well, a large reason of why he makes the save. Once the shooter connects with the ball, Hamid is exploding out into his shape. However, he is never truly set and the run-and-gun approach is only fitting for this specific of shot. If the shooter goes a little higher, he can slip it through the thigh-and-arm gap. Or if he shoots closer it, he can split Hamid’s legs (see below). Or if he hesitates his shot with another touch, Hamid is left in the dust, which is exactly what happens against New York City this last week.

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Whenever there is a young prospect, media and fans are quick to give them a pass whenever plays don’t go their way. “There’s nothing the goalkeeper could do about that.” Well actually there’s a lot the goalkeeper could have done here. First off, he could have not gone to ground. Poku is too far out and at such an angle that Hamid doesn't need to go straight to ground. Secondly, Hamid is really running the risk of a red card with his cleats up slide, specifically his left foot. Because of him leading with his foot, we have another problem: Hamid’s body shape is not ideal. Hamid incorporates the rarely seen sit-and-scoot approach because he is too aggressive with his feet here. The motion pencils his body and as Poku starts to round Hamid, Hamid is not long enough to cover the goal mouth.

 Sit-n-scoot

Sit-n-scoot

Hamid is trying to make a foot save on a shot that doesn’t happen. Later, Hamid finds himself against Poku and is exposed yet again by getting his legs split by the shot. The ball slips through Hamid's legs because of his excessively wide stance. (A closer look at the shot can be found here.)

Are these situation against Poku a difficult situation? Yes. Does Hamid help himself out as much as possible? No. He is overusing one technique for different situations. 1v1s should not be approached as a “one size fits all” mindset. Sometimes you must stay on your feet. Sometimes you need to go to ground. And then there are factors about body shape. Going back to the save of the week nominee, it’s a great save. There is no doubt that he stopped a goal scoring opportunity against Montreal. However his 1v1 approach is not something you would teach a young goalkeeper to do and definitely not at the quantity he does. It has plagued his game since day one and while it has gotten better, it still needs improvement.

 

Confusing Body Shape

We already saw examples of odd body motion choices by Hamid on 1v1 situation, but his standing shape can be equally confounding.

The point of the video is not to show if Hamid could have or couldn’t have saved the shot. David Villa is curling a shot from inside the 18. Okay, we get it, he’s really good and it’s a goal. Instead, let’s focus on Hamid’s form. He’s a little behind the shot and then he takes an incredibly awkward and confusing next step.

 As the shot is taken, Hamid is not set

As the shot is taken, Hamid is not set

 Hamid's awkward first step

Hamid's awkward first step

Again, we’re not looking to see if Hamid could save the shot. If he could have I wouldn't be writing this right now. However, Hamid’s body shape and motion are far from ideal. A shot from three yards wide of his body and Hamid immediately goes for a foot save? Outside of a shot being hit right at his foot, there is no productive motion Hamid can make with this step. It is too far from his foot to save and he also can’t dive out because his of his egregious first step. We see the labor of his fruits as he can only spin backwards after the shot.

Here’s another play against New England where we see poor technique.

Hamid’s jump set is so wide his only movement he can make is backwards. You can see the strain on Hamid’s shoes as all his weight is on the outside of his foot, making it impossible for him to step towards any shot that’s away from him. Once again, this is less about if he could have made this particular save and more about analyzing his technique. Sure, he can't save that shot but if it's within reach he still cannot truly reach it because of his stance.

 

Savazos Over Hand Strength

Savazo - (n) - A great save stopping a golazo.

We’ve all seen the ridiculous saves. Hamid criminally has a 76 in reflexes and a 74 in diving in FIFA 15. A 90 for both would be more accurate. He has the spring and the explosiveness to get a shot most goalkeepers would just watch sail into the net. But twice this year (first and second) we’ve seen Hamid struggle with shots hit with pace that were well within his grasp. Both times, Hamid is caught between looking to catch and wanting to parry away and both times the result is a generous rebound for the opposition. There’s not a ton to say or show on these. He either needs to corral them, which is preferred, or get them out of danger.

 

Moving Forward

Hamid is receiving an anti-Steve Clark season in terms of perception and laud. Both of the two goalkeepers have made highlight reel save after save but given up less than impressive goals along the way. Unfortunately for Clark, the media is equally unimpressed by him as they are enamored by Hamid. Hamid is 25 in November and people have been comparing him to Tim Howard for years now. But Howard, at this time in his career, had started for Manchester United about thirty times. (Manchester United was a very good team.)

Players are different and Howard had his struggles overseas, but it’s late in Hamid’s career to be making these mistakes if he truly is looking to play at a higher league and start for the US. He’s a fine MLS goalkeeper, one definitely contributing to DC United’s season, but if he wants to be something more he needs to hone in his mechanics. Hamid sits middle of the pack in MLS goalkeepers because the ones ahead of him have been playing great. Nick Rimando is still going strong. David Ousted is probably going to win Goalkeeper of the Year. Stefan Frei and Luis Robles are having great seasons. Even DC United Andrew Dykstra had the best game of any goalkeeper this year. If Hamid is really supposed to be the best goalkeeper in the league, and the eventual starter for the US Men’s National Team, he can’t be having these hiccups every other week.