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


INDIO, Calif. — In 12 years, DC United opened training camp with Bill Hamid atop the depth chart and the other goaltenders looking for the backup job. Hamid would miss time due to injuries and international call-ups, but for the most part it was a clear pecking order.

This year’s camp started not only without Hamid, but without any of the four goalkeepers who saw action in 2022. The competition for the starting game against Toronto FC in the Feb. 25 MLS opener features two free agent signings and a candidate promoted from United’s second-division affiliate.

“You don’t come in and try to overthrow someone who’s had the job for years, who’s a fan favorite, who’s really liked by the guys,” Alex Bono said. “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 and 80 shutouts, including the playoffs. The 32-year-old is still 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. Tyler Miller, 29, signed after making 30 starts for Minnesota in 2021 and losing the starting job last year. Luis Zamudio, 24, was Loudoun United’s primary goalkeeper last year while training regularly with the D.C. squad.

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When the camp opened, coach Wayne Rooney and goalkeeping coach Diego Restrepo made it clear that the number 1 was there. Miller and Bono have started one pre-season game each. Zamudio was a second-half substitute in both, then started a 45-minute match.

“For them it’s about minutes and whether it’s the next game or the game after that, they want to 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 co [Restrepo] and make a decision from there.”

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

“Wayne has told us that anybody can play,” Zamudio said. “He doesn’t care how old we are. He’s going to play whoever he thinks is best.

Miller’s signing brought him full circle. The summer after his freshman year at Northwestern, he was invited to work out informally with United at RFK Stadium’s training grounds. His pro career took him from a backup role in Seattle to, via 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 made a deal with Real Salt Lake for David Ochoa, a highly regarded prospect in the final year of his contract.

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Offseason negotiations with Ochoa broke down, and on the first day of his free agency, Miller said he received calls from CEO Jason Levien, Rooney and two other members of the technical staff encouraging him to join United.

“I’ve never received that kind of treatment,” 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 during the regular season and playoffs — ended at the end of last season in a reserve role.

“The sense from both sides was that it was time to move on,” Bono said, adding that there was “no animosity.”

He said he got other bits in free agency, but “I felt very lucky that DC wanted to sign me.”

Zamudio’s path began in the youth academy at Mexico’s Club América. 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 grew up in Las Vegas.

He played for American second and third division clubs 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 performed well I could potentially be considered for the first team.”

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

The preseason competition has required candidates to not only save and organize the defense, but also proactively initiate the attack by playing higher up the pitch, taking chances and using their feet for quick distribution.

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“I’m an aggressive goaltender,” Miller said. “I like playing high up and for Wayne it’s a step up. It’s taken some time, but I really feel like I’ve got it right. He’s good at it: if you make a mistake, it’s okay. 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 series late this month at Audi Field. For Bono, it would mean meeting his former club.

“It’s a little extra motivation,” he said, smiling. “There’s just a little more urgency to chase that spot because I definitely feel like there’s unfinished business. You want to play against your old team and try to stick it to them.”

Notes: Polish striker Mateusz Klich received his work visa and arrived in camp late on Tuesday. He will make his debut on Monday against Los Angeles FC. …

Christian Benteke and Chris Durkin scored in a 3-2 loss against Charlotte FC on Wednesday. Then, in a 45-minute session with the first-leg substitutes, United drew 1–1 with Vancouver. Rookie Aidan Rocha (Georgetown) scored.


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