November 13, 2019

D.C. United Analysis: First-quarter evaluation, part 1 – Goalkeepers

Simply based on results, it would have been massively difficult for D.C. United to be as bad (or worse) than it was in 2013. A 3-24-7 record, just 16 points in the standings, and a goal differential of -37 added up to one of the worst seasons by any team in Major League Soccer history, even if it was capped off by a victory at Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup final – the team’s 13th major trophy.

So to say United has surpassed expectations in this first quarter or so of the 2014 MLS season isn’t necessarily earth-shattering. But even with several new acquisitions and the departure of multiple players from last year’s clunker of a squad, it’s not likely that many would have had United sitting tied for third place in the Eastern Conference after nine matches, with a winning record (4-3-2) and almost as many points (14) as all of last season. United carry a modest +2 goal differential, a serious step up to this point last season, when United was 1-7-1 (4 points) and had a goal differential of -13.

To put it in perspective, the worst goal differential currently in MLS is -6, held by the Montreal Impact – United’s next opponent this Saturday at RFK Stadium. At this time last year, United had given up 17 goals. This season, the club has allowed 11. Part of the reason for the improvement has been a revamped defense, which while it still faces some questions, has improved over last season. But today, we start this five-part series by looking at how the goalkeepers have performed.

United’s starting goalkeeper, Bill Hamid, has missed some time this season, starting six of United’s nine matches. His goals against average (1.67) doesn’t look all that impressive. Hamid has conceded goals on 10 of the 28 shots on that he has faced. Hamid does have one shutout, which came this past Saturday in United’s 1-0 win at Philadelphia – the clubs first away league win in 584 days.

But Hamid showed in that game why you can’t judge him by numbers alone. While the goal from Chris Rolfe in the sixth minute goes down as the match-winning play, Hamid’s double-save late in the second half kept United in the lead and prevented them from giving up crucial points late, as it had the previously week when the Portland Timbers scored in second-half stoppage time of a 3-2 victory.

As soon as Andrew Wenger turned United defender Jeff Parke at the top of the penalty area, Hamid, who was already a couple yards off his line, charged out to challenge Wenger. Wenger didn’t get much on the shot, but Hamid slid out feet first to reject it. Of course, this left the goal wide open for any kind of rebound shot. That rebound fell quickly to Conor Casey, but Hamid had his number, too, diving to his left to block that shot. It helped that Casey aimed back toward Hamid somewhat, since two United defenders were diving the other way to try and cover the rest of the goal. It was a magnificent piece of work from Hamid and it helped win all three points.

Andrew Dykstra has been the second goalkeeper for United this season, starting three games and he was impressive. Dykstra has only seen somewhat regular MLS action in 2010 with the Chicago Fire (17 games). But for three games between the posts for D.C., Dykstra allowed just one goal, made five saves, and produced a 2-0-1 record (0.33 GAA). The 2013 USL Goalkeeper of the Year with the Richmond Kickers, Dykstra made the most of his first MLS appearances since 2010 and while he hasn’t been seen yet this season, Joe Willis is also a capable backup to Hamid.

Combined, United goalkeepers have stopped 23 of the 34 shots on goal faced (67.6 percent). If United can get leads and do better at holding possession (something D.C. did not do well in the second half Saturday, despite the result), the pressure will be taken off a bit from the goalkeepers and Hamid and Dykstra figure to stand out even more. Giving up 1.22 goals per game this season compared to a whopping 1.89 a year ago at this time is a big reason why the record has improved and the goalkeepers have earned their fair share of the credit.

NOTE: No D.C. United players were chosen as part of the 30-man preliminary World Cup roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team. That means Eddie Johnson, who has 63 caps and has scored 19 international goals for the U.S., was left off. Johnson has gone scoreless so far in this, his first season with United. A total of 15 MLS players were chosen for the roster.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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