This year’s camp began not only without Hamid, but without any of the four goalkeepers who saw action in 2022. The competition for the opening game against Toronto FC in the MLS opener on February 25 offers two free agent signings and a Candidate promoted from United’s second-division affiliate.
Alex Bono said, “You don’t come in and try to throw down someone who’s had the job for years, who’s a fan favorite, who’s well-liked by the guys. “All three of us come in with a clean slate.”
Hamid and United parted ways after his injury shortened 2022 season, ending the second-longest tenure by a DC player (behind Jaime Moreno’s) and a career of 290 games, 80 shutouts, including the playoffs. The 32-year-old remains a free agent.
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Bono, 28, arrived after eight seasons in Toronto, where he started 48 games over the previous two years. Taylor Miller, 29, signed 30 more times for Minnesota in 2021 and lost the starting job last year. Luis Zamudio, 24, was Loudoun United’s primary keeper last year while training regularly with the D.C. team.
When camp opened, coach Wayne Rooney and goalie coach Diego Restrepo made it clear that the No. 1 slot was there for the taking. Miller and Bono have started one preseason match apiece. Zamudio was a second half sub in both, then started a 45-minute game.
“For them, it’s about minutes, and whether it’s the next game or the game after, they’ll know who’s going to be the starting goalkeeper,” Rooney said. “I have one in mind, but I’ll discuss it with the guys and Mitt [Restrepo] And make a decision from there.”
Miller started the preseason opener last week, and appears to have the edge. But Bono’s experience and Zamudio’s potential have left the race open.
“Wayne told us that anyone can play,” Zamudio said. – He doesn’t care how old we are. He will play whoever he thinks is the best. “
Miller’s signing brought him full circle. The summer after his freshman year at Northwestern, he was invited to practice informally with United at the RFK Stadium training grounds. His pro career took him from a reserve role in Seattle to, through the expansion draft, a starting job with Los Angeles FC in 2018 and 2019. He was traded to Minnesota in 2020 and started in 2021 before backing up Dwayne St. Clair last year.
With Miller not playing, United inquired about a trade last summer to provide depth as Hamid recovered from hand surgery and, in his place, neither Rafael Romo nor Jon Kempin stood out. Instead, DC struck a deal with Real Salt Lake for David Ochoa, a highly regarded prospect in the final year of his contract.
The offseason negotiations with Ochoa forced, and on the first day of free agency, Miller received calls from chief executive Jason Levin, Rooney and two other members of the technical staff encouraging him to join United.
“I’ve never been treated like this,” said Miller, who signed a two-year deal. “It’s simple stuff, but it goes a long way.”
Bono’s time with Toronto — which included 135 appearances throughout the regular season and playoffs — ended late last season in a backup role.
“The sense on both sides was time to move on,” Bono said, adding that there was “no animosity.”
He said he received other offers in free agency, but “I felt really lucky DC wanted to hire me.”
Zamudio’s path began in the youth academy in Mexico Club America. In 2019, he made the first team matchday roster for three Liga MX matches. His parents are from Mexico, but he was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Las Vegas.
He played for second and third division clubs in the USA before excelling with Loudoun last year. Thanks to regular training sessions with DC, “I knew I was on their radar,” he said. “I knew if I did well, I could be considered for the first team.”
As soon as the season ended, he was offered an MLS contract.
The preseason competition required the candidates not only to make saves and organize the defense, but to proactively start the attack by playing higher up the field, taking chances and using their feet for quick distribution.
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“I’m an aggressive goalie,” Miller said. “I like to play loud, and for Wayne, it’s a step up. It took some time, but I really feel like I got it right. He’s big about it: if you make a mistake, it’s fine. It’s about reading the game and not playing scared.”
“He wants us to be very brave,” Zamudio added.
The goal for all three is to be in the lineup late this month at Audi Field. For Bono, that would mean facing his previous club.
“That’s a little added motivation,” he said, smiling. “There’s just a bit more urgency to chase that spot because I definitely feel there’s unfinished business. You’d love to play your old team and try to stick it to them.
Notes: Polish striker Mataus Klich received his work visa and arrived at the camp late on Tuesday. He is scheduled to debut on Monday against Los Angeles FC. …
Christian Benteke and Chris Durkin scored in a 3-2 loss to Charlotte FC on Wednesday. Then, in a 45-minute session with the first game subs, United played out a 1-1 draw with Vancouver. Rookie Aidan Rocha (Georgetown) scored.