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 opened training camp with Bill Hamid on the depth chart and other defenders vying for backup work. Hamid will miss time due to injuries and international calls, but for the most part there is a pecking order.

This year’s camp begins not only without Hamid but without any of the four goalkeepers who see action in 2022. Competing for the starting gig against Toronto FC in the MLS opener on December 25 are two free agent signings and a candidate for promotion from the United second- division affiliate.

“You’re not trying to beat someone who’s had a job for years, who’s a fan favorite, who’s really liked by the crowd,” Alex Bono said. “All three of us are coming in with a clean slate.”

Hamid and United parted ways after an injury-shortened 2022 season, the second-longest season finish by a DC player (after Jaime Moreno’s) and a 290-game, 80-game career, including finals. The 32-year-old is a free agent.

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Bono, 28, arrives after eight seasons in Toronto, where he started 48 games over the past two years. Tyler Miller, 29, signed after starting 30 seasons for Minnesota in 2021 and losing the starting job last year. Luis Zamudio, 24, was Loudoun United’s first keeper last year while regularly training with the DC club.

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When camp opens, Coach Wayne Rooney and goalkeeper coach Diego Restrepo make it clear that the No. 1 slot is there for the taking. Miller and Bono have started a preseason match. Zamudio was the second half share in both, then started a 45 minute game.

“For them, it’s just a matter of minutes, and whether it’s the next game or the next game, they’ll know who’s going to be the starting keeper,” Rooney said. “I have one in mind, but I will discuss it with the boys and with [Restrepo] and make a decision from there.”

After starting the preseason last week, Miller seems to have the edge. But Bono’s experience and Zamudio’s power have left the race wide open.

“Wayne has told us that anyone can play,” Zamudio said. “He doesn’t care about our age. He will play whoever he thinks is best.”

Miller’s signing brings him full circle. The summer after his freshman year at Northwestern, he was invited to practice informally with United at RFK Stadium’s training grounds. His pro career took him from the reserve role in Seattle to, through the expansion process, the starting job with Los Angeles FC in 2018 and 2019. He was traded to Minnesota in 2020 and started in 2021 before supporting Dwayne St. Clair last year.

With Miller not playing, United asked about a trade last summer to provide depth as Hamid recovered from injury and, in his place, Rafael Romo or Jon Kempin did not stand out. Instead, DC made a deal with Real Salt Lake for David Ochoa, a top prospect in the last year of his contract.

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Offseason negotiations with Ochoa fizzled, and on the first day of free agency, Miller said he received calls from general manager Jason Levien, Rooney and two other members of the coaching staff encouraging him to join. know United

“I don’t get that kind of treatment,” said Miller, who signed a two-year contract. “It’s something simple, but it goes a long way.”

Bono’s season with Toronto — which included 135 appearances over the regular season and playoffs — wound up at the end of last season in a backup role.

Bono said: “There’s an understanding on both sides that it’s time to move on,” adding “there’s no hate.”

He said he took other nibbles in free agency but “I think he’s really lucky DC wants to take me.”

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

He played for the USA’s second- and third-team teams before excelling with Loudoun last year. Thanks to regular training sessions with DC, “I know I’m on their radar,” he said. “I know if I do well, I can be considered for the first team.”

Once the season was over, he was offered an MLS contract.

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The preseason competition has asked the competitors not only to make saves and organize the defense but to initiate the offensive reaction by playing higher in the field, taking chances and using their feet for distribution of speed.

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“I’m an aggressive speaker,” Miller said. “I want to play at the top, and for Wayne, it is a further step. It has taken some time, but I really feel like I have become good. It is great about him: If he makes a mistake, it’s good. It’s about reading the game and not playing scared.”

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

The goal for all three is to be in the lineup later this month at Audi Field. For Bono, that would mean facing his former team.

“That’s a bit of motivation,” he said, smiling. “It’s just more of a rush to chase that point because I definitely feel like there’s unfinished business. You will love to play your old team and try to stick with them. “

Notes: Poland striker Mateusz Klich received his work visa and arrived in camp late Tuesday. He is slated to debut Monday against Los Angeles FC. …

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


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