Alex Bono, Tyler Miller, Luis Zamudio compete for D.C. United keeper job


INDIO, Calif. — For the better part of 12 years, D.C. United has opened training camp with Bill Hameed at the top of the depth chart and other goaltenders vying for backup jobs. Hamid missed time due to injury and international call-ups, but was clearly up the pecking order most of the time.

This year’s camp began not only without Hamid, but also without any of the four goalkeepers who tried out in 2022. The competition for the starting gig against Toronto FC in the MLS tournament opener on February 25th has two free agent signings and a candidate promoted from United’s second baseman. branch of the department.

Alex Bono said, “You’re not trying to bring down someone who’s been around for years, who’s a fan favorite, who’s really liked by the guys.” “All three of us are going in with a clean slate.”

Hamid and United parted ways after his injury-shortened 2022 season, ending a DC player’s second-longest tenure (behind Jaime Moreno) and a 290-game, 80-sale career, including playoffs. The 32-year-old remains a free agent.

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Bono, 28, arrives in Toronto after eight seasons where he started 48 games over the previous two years. Tyler Miller, 29, signed with Minnesota in 2021 after 30 tackles and losing his job last year. Luis Zamudio, 24, was the main goalkeeper for Loudoun United last year, and has been training regularly with the DC team.

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When camp opened, coach Wayne Rooney and goalkeeping coach Diego Restrepo made it clear that the No. 1 slot was up for grabs. Miller and Bono started the preseason match one at a time. Zamudio was both a second-half sub, then started the 45-minute game.

“For them, it’s a few minutes, whether it’s the next game or the game after that, they know who’s going to be the main goalkeeper,” Rooney said. “I have something in mind, but I will discuss it with the boys [Restrepo] and make a decision from there.’

Starting last week’s preseason opener, Miller appears to have the edge. But Bono’s experience and Zamudio’s potential left the race wide open.

“Wayne told us anybody can play,” Zamudio said. “He doesn’t care how old we are. He plays 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 an informal workout with United on the practice field at RFK Stadium. His professional career took him from a backup role in Seattle to a starting job with Los Angeles FC through the expansion draft in 2018 and 2019. He was traded to Minnesota in 2020 and started for Dwayne St. Clair in 2021. .

With Miller out, United inquired about a trade last summer to provide depth as Hamid recovered from hand surgery, and his replacements, Rafael Romo and John Kempin, were no different. Instead, DC signed with Real Salt Lake for David Ochoa, a highly regarded prospect in the final year of his contract.

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Outside talks with Ochoa broke down, and on the first day of free agency, Miller said he received calls from chief executive Jason Levien, Rooney and two other members of the coaching staff urging him to join United.

“I’ve never seen a relationship like this,” said Miller, who signed a two-year deal. “It’s a simple thing, but it goes a long way.”

Bono’s time with Toronto – which included 135 appearances in the regular season and playoffs – ended in a backup role at the end of last season.

“It’s time for both sides to move forward,” Bono said, adding that “there’s no animosity.”

He said he got other teeth in free agency, but “I felt really lucky that D.C. wanted to take me.”

Zamudio’s career began in the youth academy of the American Club of Mexico. In 2019, he made the first team’s matchday roster for three Liga MX matches. His parents are from Mexico, but he was born in Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas.

He played for second and third division clubs in the US before breaking through with Loudoun last year. Thanks to regular workouts with DC, “I knew I was on their radar,” he said. “I knew if I played well, I could be considered for the first team.”

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As soon as the season ended, he was offered an MLS contract.

The pre-season competition required the candidates not only to make saves and organize defences, but to actively initiate attacks by playing high up the field, taking advantage of opportunities and using their feet for quick distribution.

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“I’m an aggressive goaltender,” Miller said. “I like to play high up and for Wayne it’s another step up. It took a while, but I seemed to get the hang of it. He’s very good about it: If you make a mistake, that’s okay. It’s about reading the game and not playing scared.”

“He wants us to be very brave,” Zamudio added.

All three aim to be on the Audi Field lineup later this month. For Bono, that means facing his former club.

“It’s a little extra motivation,” he said with a smile. “It’s a bit of a rush to chase this place down because I feel like there’s unfinished business there. You want to play your old team and stick it to them.”

Notes: Polish forward Mateusz Klitsch arrived at the camp on Tuesday evening after receiving a work visa. He faces Los Angeles FC on Monday. …

Christian Benteke and Chris Durkin scored in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Charlotte FC. Then, United drew 1-1 with Vancouver in a 45-minute session using subsidies in the first leg. Rookie Aidan Rocha (Georgetown) scored.


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