In golf, it’s called a Mulligan. In Monopoly it’s the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Kids call it a “do-over,” whatever game they’re playing.
But not in soccer. That reality has been hammered home for Troy Perkins this season, as the veteran goalkeeper has seen his happy homecoming to D.C. United derailed by poor results and the rapid rise of a young rival, sending him back to square one at age 28.
“The only direction to move at any point in your life is forward,” Perkins said recently. “You get stuck in certain spots and you’ll fizzle out or you’ll burn out. I think that’s kind of what hit me early on in the season, I just burned myself out and lost that edge, lost that mentality and lost the focus.”
Brought back to Washington at significant expense over the winter for leadership and ability, United’s atrocious start to the campaign sat heavy on Perkins’ shoulders this spring. Soon he found himself passed in the pecking order by Bill Hamid, the gifted, preternaturally calm 19 year-old.
Hamid’s rise should sound familiar. Not long ago it was Perkins who surged to the starting job and usurped veteran Nick Rimando, the incumbent goalkeeper when Perkins first arrived in D.C. in 2004.
“I think that’s always the way it’s been here at this club,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t matter who’s starting, where you’ve played, what you’ve done. It’s a competitive job, day in, day out. Bill’s been sharp and I didn’t come out the way I wanted to, I wasn’t sharp and focused at the beginning of the season. Fair enough – that’s what happens.”
He admits that his unforeseen return to the bench has forced him to take stock and reduce his own self-imposed stress levels.
“Now I’ve had the chance to just say, ‘you know what, I’ll come to train and do my job, and after that I’m going home and getting away from everything,’” Perkins said. “Getting away from the competitiveness, getting away from the environment.”
Hamid has been stellar for most of his time between the posts and seems set to blossom into a star, whether sooner or later. But the youngster undoubtedly benefited from a simpler assignment and the moderated expectations that come along with it.
“Exactly – he doesn’t know any better! Just save the ball,” Perkins said with a laugh. “As you get older there’s a lot more to it than just doing that. But saying that, at the same time, just save the ball and everything else will come. So that’s kind of the mentality I’ve had to take, and take a step back from what I expect of myself and just go out and do what I know how to do.”
Shipped out to Real Salt Lake as part of the Freddy Adu trade four years ago, Rimando eventually re-ignited his career, to say the least, holding off understudy Chris Seitz and playing an integral role in RSL’s MLS Cup-winning side last season.
Rimando will return to RFK Stadium as a champion this week, as Real hits town for a U.S. Open Cup play-in match followed closely by a league contest. His former United rival will hope to negotiate the comeback trail with similar aplomb.