Keeper Bill Hamid became D.C.'s first-ever academy signing.
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Young keeper Hamid climbing the ladder for D.C.

Field players can rise from the bench to earnconfidence-building match cameos. But a netminder’s complex responsibilities --leadership, organization, focus -- typically take years to master and in aposition where security and continuity are vital to results, opportunities forsubstitute appearances come few and far between.

Just ask Chris Seitz, Tally Hall, Josh Saunders or one ofthe many other talented MLS ‘keepers who’ve spent match after match simmeringon the sidelines in recent years -- there are dues to be paid.All of this makes Bill Hamid’s rapid progress with D.C. Unitedthat much more noteworthy.

Imposing and athletic, but raw, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound 19-year-oldmade history at the most tradition-laden club in Major League Soccer inSeptember when he became the first-ever United academy product to sign with thesenior team. Given his age and position, little was expected of him in theshort term and he didn't see a minute of match action last year despite theteam’s chronic turnover between the pipes down the stretch.

But with a diligent mentality in the gym and on the trainingground, Hamid seems to have jumped ahead of the curve this offseason and lookswell-positioned to secure the backup spot behind Troy Perkins, the veteran shotstopper who returned to United this winter after two years in the NorwegianTippelaegen.

“Bill has come a long way since when I first saw him as a16-year-old,” D.C. goalkeeper coach Mark Simpson told “He’s got greatathletic qualities, he’s mature beyond his years and I think this environmenthas really helped him along. He put in a really good offseason training programto help himself physically, and he’s really now starting to see the benefits ofhard work.”

Last month D.C. cut Milos Kocic, a second-round SuperDraftpick who showed promise in several first-team appearances last year but couldnot haul himself ahead of Hamid on the depth chart during the 2010 preseason.Seeing extra first-team action during Perkins’ stint with the U.S. nationalteam, Hamid has shown well in preseason scrimmages and may be sent out onshort-term loans to lower-division clubs to build his match sharpness thisyear. So while United may well audition other ‘keepers in the coming weeks,their homegrown prospect has given notice that he’s intent on making the mostof his substantial potential sooner than later.

“My whole thought process was go in, work hard for the[second] half of the season, put in my work in the offseason and then comeback and show that I’m ready in preseason," explained Hamidwhen asked about his rapid progress to date, "that I can step in and be whatever Ineed to be, whatever I want to be: the starter or No. 2. Every day is a fight. Every day is going to be a hard dayfor the goalkeepers, or for everybody, really. There’s spots open, so you haveto fight every day to get where you want to be.”

Under Simpson’s watchful eye -- and grueling workout regimen -- Hamid is becoming acclimated to the daily grind at the professional level, andit’s no accident United re-acquired Perkins, one of the club’shardest-working players in recent memory, to provide a positive influence inthat process.

“Troy knows what it takes in terms of being a professionalgoalkeeper," noted Simpson. "He’s had a taste of Europe and he knows MLS. Heknows what it takes to get himself there and hopefully others can learn fromhim and just take that example, figure out that for themselves as well.”

Hamid moved out of his parents’ house and into a northernVirginia apartment last fall, another sign of maturation, though United’stechnical staff already considered him wise beyond his years. Conscious of hisown potentially groundbreaking role within the development of the MLS youth-development structure, Hamid passed on European club opportunities in favor ofjoining his hometown squad, and nowhe’s eager to blaze a trail for future academy products to follow into MajorLeague Soccer.

“Just for them giving me, this one player, a chance, I feellike it gives all kids in the academy and at every single MLS team the hope,”he explained. “If you work hard enough, I don’t see why more MLS teams can’tstart bringing in three, four players a year, if the kids are working hardenough. When they see this, [they know] ‘Somebody’s done it so I can still doit.’”