Goalkeepers Hamid, Johnson Look to Make Most of U.S. MNT Opportunity
The 21-year-old Bill Hamid and 22-year-old Sean Johnson are prime examples of young talent hoping to get noticed during the U.S. MNTâ€™s January camp. Both have taken on significant roles with their respective MLS teams and also trained abroad during the offseason in English Premier League environments. Now they want to have an impact at the international level.
The U.S. Menâ€™s National Teamâ€™s January camp provides a platform for younger players to earn their stars and stripes while the majority of the first team is playing abroad. This clearly rings true for goalkeepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, who have taken on significant roles with their professional clubs but are trying to get noticed on the international stage.
The 21-year-old Hamid and 22-year-old Johnson were named to U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmannâ€™s training camp, which runs through Jan. 26 and includes two matches â€“ a Jan. 21 game against Venezuela (7 p.m. MT in Glendale, Ariz.; TICKETS; ESPN3/Galavision), followed by a match against Panama on Jan. 25 (8:30 p.m. ET in Panama City; ESPN3/Galavision).
This January session marks Hamidâ€™s fourth call-up to the U.S. MNT, but the D.C. United goalkeeper has not earned an international cap just yet. That certainly could change this time around as he, Johnson and 32-year-old Nick Rimando share duties in the net.
â€œIt would mean a lot to be in the lineup because itâ€™s a dream of mine,â€ Hamid said. â€œItâ€™s something that Iâ€™m going to stay patient for and wait for my time. But Iâ€™m definitely focused this year, and I want to be the best at everything I do, whether itâ€™s D.C. United, or the U.S., or whoever. I want to be progressing and showing my abilities.â€
Johnson is entering his third season with Major League Soccerâ€™s Chicago Fire, and he has one international cap to his name. Johnsonâ€™s U.S. MNT debut happened right around this time last year as he played in the second half of a 1-1 draw against Chile on Jan. 22, 2011, splitting time with Rimando.
â€œItâ€™s my second full-team camp now, so I know what to expect,â€ Johnson said. â€œItâ€™s been a great camp under Jurgen and the coaching staff so far. Iâ€™m going to continue to build and keep learning. The experience I had last year, you canâ€™t ask for anything more. It was an honor, and itâ€™s one thing that Iâ€™ll remember forever. Now I want to be in that position a lot more and to have the opportunity to play. Itâ€™s good to be back in this environment.â€
Both players spent some time with Premier League sides in recent months as Hamid trained with West Bromwich Albion and Johnson with Everton.
â€œIt was definitely something that I enjoyed,â€ Hamid said. â€œI had a taste of the Premier League atmosphere, then settled down and did my thing. I had some really positive feedback and enjoyed my time there. They have a high level of professionalism day in and day out, and Iâ€™m going to bring that attitude back here.â€
â€œBeing a young goalkeeper, you learn from these experiences,â€ Johnson said about his Everton trip. â€œThe training there was top-class. The sessions focused on just keeping sharp for a whole season and keeping everything clean while you are training. Once you get into the game, your game needs to be as clean as possible so you have confidence in yourself and give yourself and the team a chance to win the game.â€
The Toffee flavor is a staple of U.S. MNT camp moving forward with former Everton goalkeeper coach Chris Woods helping guide this young goalkeeping tandem.
â€œHeâ€™s the best at what he does,â€ Hamid said of Woods. â€œHe focuses on technique and makes sure goalkeepers get what they need so theyâ€™re prepared for games. You can see that from coaching Tim Howard. Heâ€™s playing day in and day out â€“ and heâ€™s scoring goals now. Chris is a great guy to work with and have in my corner.â€
â€œChris is able to talk to you about situations and give you information to soak in,â€ Johnson said. â€œHe not only tells you, but explains it to you. Itâ€™s important to take that feedback to make yourself better. Heâ€™s really open, and if you ask him questions, he will give you necessary and honest feedback.â€
This training camp certainly has been a learning experience for everyone involved, from the soccer side to the nutrition side. For players such as Hamid and Johnson, who are preparing for a jam-packed year that could include both the 2012 Summer Olympics and club play, maintaining a high level of focus will be a challenge.
â€œMy level of fitness has to stay high,â€ Johnson said. â€œThe rigors of different tournaments and qualifiers, you have to stay ready for everything. I think keeping a certain level of fitness will help me get through it as long as I eat healthy and keep my body prepared.â€
Johnson and Hamid are involved with the U.S. U-23 MNT as 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying is around the corner March 22-26 in Nashville, Tenn. (TICKETS). Both players are benefiting from the frequently intense competition.
â€œSeanâ€™s a good goalie, and when you have guys like that around you it only makes you better and makes you work harder,â€ Hamid said. â€œRight now, obviously itâ€™s a competition, but theyâ€™re still your teammates here in the USA. As a teammate, you push each other and continue working harder.â€