Tim Howard was the United States’ goalkeeper, then he took a year off and Brad Guzan became the man between the sticks for Jurgen Klinsmann. Now Howard is back and, after the Confederations Cup final, the two goalkeepers will have a Battle of the Bald for the job. But that competition comes with a hole – it excludes arguably the best American goalkeeper.
While Howard has kept playing for Everton — usually adequately, but with some bad goals mixed in — and Guzan got demoted at Aston Villa only to win the starting job back, Bill Hamid has been the unquestioned man between the sticks for D.C. United. More than that, he’s been the best goalkeeper in all of MLS.
There was a time when Hamid was a project – more potential than end product. For every brilliant save he’d make, there would be a howler, and while his athleticism was never in question, his positioning often was. But that was two years and seemingly another career ago for Hamid, who has been nothing short of brilliant ever since.
His shot stopping is beyond reproach and his reading of the game is now better than average. The mental mistakes and lapses in judgement that made him such a liability before have all but gone. He’s every bit as dependable as he is jaw dropping.
The same can’t always be said of Howard and Guzan anymore. Mistakes may not be a regular part of Howard’s game, but they’re not especially rare, either. His positioning can leave a lot to be desired, and crosses can become an adventure. While he was marvelous in his last match for the U.S. — the record-setting show against Belgium in the World Cup — that isn’t the norm, and the last three years at Everton have proved it. Guzan is steady enough, as he showed at the Gold Cup, but he’s hardly a match-winner, and even if much of his demotion at Aston Villa can be chalked up to Tim Sherwood’s bouts with insanity, he was dropped as his club’s starting goalkeeper not even six months ago.
The U.S. has long had some of the better goalkeepers in the world, starting nearly two decades ago with Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, but that isn’t the case anymore. There are lots of competent choices, but no clear cut world class ones.