BALTIMORE-D.C. United threw the supporters who stuck around for the third and final round of Thursday's 2011 MLS SuperDraft a late curveball, trading both of their first-round picks in next Tuesday's supplemental draft to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the chance to move up to the 50th overall pick and grab Denver goalkeeper Joe Willis.
This is exactly what United did, consequently sending out a signal to the two other goaltenders already on the roster that no one would be handed the starting job right away.
"We'll let them fight it out," said United general manager Dave Kasper.
The current incumbent goalkeeper is 20-year-old Bill Hamid, who made eight starts for United in 2010 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last September. "He's actually a little bit ahead of schedule," Kasper said when asked about Hamid's recovery. "We anticipate that by mid-February he'll be back to 100%."
On December 17, United pulled off a straight-up goalkeeper-for goalkeeper spot, sending Troy Perkins to the expansion Portland Timbers for 27-year-old veteran Steve Cronin, who had spent some time on loan with United at the end of the 2009 season (posting an 1-0-1 record in two MLS appearances) and had played for a previous incarnation of the Portland Timbers, first in the United Soccer League First Division and then in the United States Soccer Federation D-2 Pro League.
And then there's Willis himself, a 22-year-old St. Louis native who helped backstop the Denver Pioneers to a 9-7-4 record, including a 6-2-2 conference record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). Willis allowed just nine goals in the 12 games he started, posting a 0.72 goals-against average and making 64 saves. He was chosen as the goalkeeper for the MPSF All-Conference first team in each of his last three seasons at Denver (2008-10).
"He's a guy who had a very good combine," said Kasper, referring to the week-long scouting event immediately preceding the draft held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "[United assistant coach Chad Ashton] is very familiar with him from his time in Denver. He had a great week."
Next up for Hamid, Cronin, and Willis is a two-month training camp that begins a week from today at RFK Stadium and will last right up until the season opener March 19 against Columbus.