Brothers in the Black-and-Red, Dwayne De Rosario, Bill Hamid and Dejan Jakovic may very well find themselves on unfamiliar ground tonight at 9 p.m. (ESPN2): On opposite sides of the field as the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) takes on Canada.
Hamid, the sole USMNT representative of the United bunch, is rather unaccustomed to Canadian teammates De Rosario and Jakovic being anything other than protectors of his own net.
“It will be awkward a bit, knowing that Dejan [Jakovic] is usually my roommate on trips and usually the guy who’s standing right in front of me in the games, but you know, it’s always an honor to play for your nation and I’m sure they feel the same way for Canada,” said Hamid.
It’s fitting, too, that these three United players will be matching up against each other at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX. A little over two months ago, the Black-and-Red was dealt a devastating blow to its MLS Cup dreams when the Houston Dynamo defeated the team 3-1 in Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Only Jakovic made an appearance in that contest (De Rosario was still injured and Hamid was serving a one-game suspension), but all three took the field together at RFK when they were eliminated from the playoffs in Leg 2.
De Rosario entered the match in Leg 2 in the 62nd minute to make an appearance in his first competitive game since suffering an MCL injury on September 11 during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying. And just last Sunday, the United captain sported a Canada kit for the first time since that fateful day.
“Honestly the time that I took my injury was, if any time was the wrong time, it was at that time,” said De Rosario. "But, you know, it’s just nice to be back, nice to get back in the gym, nice to be playing again with no fear.”
While De Rosario and Jakovic are likely candidates for Canada’s starting XI – the former put in a 60-minute shift against Denmark while the latter went the full 90 – Hamid’s pole position is relatively unknown. Houston hero Tally Hall, a first-time USMNT January camper, is looking to receive his first cap with the national side in front of a Dynamo-laden crowd. Chicago Fire netminder Sean Johnson is searching for minutes as well, but Hamid has impressed Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann and staff in this cycle.
“They’re happy with how I’ve come into camp in shape and my work rate,” said Hamid. “The feedback has been very positive and they just encourage me to continue remaining consistent in games and in training because being called into this camp, you’re in the mix. There’s a lot going on this year in terms of World Cup qualifiers, Gold Cup and the World Cup next year, so they’ve just encouraged me to keep my head on right and keep working hard and remain consistent, and the chips will fall in the right place."
If the 22-year-old gets on the field tonight, it will be just his second senior-team cap. Hamid made his debut with the senior squad last year when he recorded a clean sheet in the team’s 1-0 win over Venezuela on Jan. 21, 2012. With United in the 2012 season, Hamid set career highs in shutouts (8), goals against average (1.03), saves (88) and wins (13). Additionally, Hamid’s saves percentage (78.6%) was best among all goalkeepers in MLS (minimum of 30 saves).
“He’s a great shot blocker,” said De Rosario. “He doesn’t give up a lot of rebounds. He’s a big boy, so he covers the net. He’s good at closing down angles. He’s got a lot of good qualities and he’s learned to understand the tempo and the pace of the game, in terms of when to slow it down and when to distribute.”
Hamid, knowing what he sees in training and games week in and week out, was equally effusive about his Canadian peers.
“[De Rosario’s] savvy with the ball at his feet, so he’s always a threat, always someone you gotta watch out for,” said Hamid. “And [Canada] seems like they’re putting out a young feisty group that’s going to work hard and get a result, so if you have a team like that, you always have to remain focused and realize they’re a threat and go out there and get the job done.”