Kimberly Bingham, the older sister of the San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham, was herself a goalkeeper at the collegiate level. As early as her senior year in high school, she played for the US Women’s National Team at the Under-19 through U-23 levels and went on to earn a call-up for the senior team. She was a part of the national team camp ahead of the 2007 World Cup, but released in the final cut and just missed out on a senior cap.
At the time, David Bingham was seventeen, a high-school senior playing for the local Mustang youth club along with his school team. Nine years later, he achieved the “dream” he inherited from his sister with his first cap for the US Men’s National Team, a 1-0 win against Canada.
His family and closest friends attended the game, sporting their posters of support. His girlfriend held aloft the sign “#1 Girlfriend” and Kimberly, “#1 Sister.” That night, David was simply the USA’s #1.
“It’s a dream come true for every kid growing up,” he told Quakes Talk in our recent exclusive interview. “You always grow up watching national team games and aspire to get to that level. To get there, it’s a great feeling and to start, it’s even better.”
Bingham’s performance received plaudits spanning from the media to the national team camp. “Bingham has looked very composed. Yes, it’s been quiet for him but everything he has had to deal with, he’s done it with ease and maturity,” was The Guardian’s verdict on his performance. The positive reviews were “the icing on the cake for all the hard work you put in” for Bingham.
Goalkeeping has historically been the US’ strong suit, and in comparison to his predecessors Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan, who all featured in the English Premier League, Bingham comes from the San Jose Earthquakes after his first full season featuring in goal for the club.
National team coach Jürgen Klinsmann has been vocal about his desire for American players to ply their trade in Europe, but Bingham doesn’t wholly subscribe to the idea. National team players don’t have to play for the biggest clubs in the world, a sentiment he has proved with his rise from college soccer in Berkley to San Jose, and then the national team. “There’s always ways to get into the national team pool, they best thing for me to do right now is have a good season with San Jose and to focus on that,” he says. “You can’t focus on the national team because then you lose focus of what gets you there.”
The goalkeeper played for Berkley between 2008 and 2010 alongside defender Steve Birnbaum, who currently plays for DC United. The pair met again in the starting lineup against Canada. “You always dream about that kind of stuff but for that actually to happen was awesome,” said Bingham. “The prior game [Birnbaum] got a goal an assist and then starts with me, so it was nice, back to the Cal days with me and him at the back.”
In 2011, Bingham signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer and then joined the Quakes, his boyhood club. Bingham served an apprenticeship under Quakes veteran goalkeeper Jon Busch for a few years and began to accumulate playing experience on loan in 2014. He played ten games for NASL side the San Antonio Scorpions in the first half of the season, keeping five shutouts, and then moved to Strømmen IF in the Norwegian first division, his only experience in Europe to date.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “It was good to get out and play games. It was something that me and the coaching staff that were here talked about; they knew I wanted to go out and play and we were able to make that happen.
“It’s a different culture, a different experience. You have to settle in quickly because you only have a certain amount of time. You have to get acclimated and then you’re thrown right into the deep end.
“Luckily, pretty much everybody spoke perfect English.”
In San Jose, Bingham was limited to appearances in the Cup, as Busch became the first goalkeeper to play every minute of the MLS regular season in 2014. Yet the Quakes’ new coach Dominic Kinnear was confident enough in Bingham, who had offered to stay in Europe through 2015, to release Busch and hand the starting spot to the California native. This past season, Bingham became the second person to play every minute of the MLS regular season, cementing his position as one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
He grew into the position after a few struggles early in the year, having sprained his meniscus tendon early in the season. It couldn’t keep him off the pitch, though. He finished third in MLS shutouts and fourth in saves this past season, allowing just eleven goals at home, the fewest in MLS.
Klinsmann has visited the Bay Area multiple times over the past few years for US National Team camps and a scouting trip to a Quakes match last summer, presumably where he watched Bingham. Nevertheless, the timing of the call-up came as a surprise to the twenty-six-year-old goalkeeper. “It’s just all your hard work throughout the year. You have got to put your best foot forward and once you get called up, it’s up to you what you do with it.”
He’s now back in California, having flown directly from LA to join the Quakes’ preseason camp in Arizona, and although the Quakes haven’t beaten an MLS competitor in three attempts this month, Bingham’s spirits are still bright.
“It’s preseason and the most important thing in preseason is for al the players to come out of the games healthy and fit and not pick up any injuries,” he said. “It’s obviously nice to win the games in preseason, but at the end of the day, if do well in the regular season, nobody cares if you don’t win any games in preseason. That’s what we’re focused on, getting fit getting healthy, cleaning up a few things here or there and then to be ready to rock opening day.”
He was in a talkative mood when we met after the Quakes’ closed-friendly win against the Sonoma, but a straight face conceals any knowledge of his wordplay.
He already has a heads up preparing for the season, with a month of training with the national team already under his belt and is now just touching up his technique before the start of the season. “Every player has their own ways of going about it, but for me, it’s just getting in the gym and working on the small things (as seen below, quite literally) on the field. Then everything just falls into place.”
He looks forward to welcoming Arsenal to the Bay Area for the 2016 MLS All-Star game and there are already rumors that he might be a part of the national team’s Copa America squad this summer.
“It’s always fun to get on the field with big teams,” he said. “Everyone wants to challenge themselves against the best players in the world and see where you stand. Whether it’s with Manchester United [whom the Quakes faced in a friendly last summer] or the national team, it’s good to be on the same field with guys of that quality and show what you can do.”
“I like to take little pieces from a few guys and implement it in my style,” he says. “I don’t really believe in taking one guy and trying to replicate what he does because that doesn’t work for everybody. That’s someone else’s style and everyone has their own style. If you can add in a few pieces here and there throughout the year, that’s a much better way of looking at it.”
When you become complacent, he says, “that’s when you can get in trouble.”
Although Bingham isn’t at a marquee European club, if he keeps his head down and focuses on every match ahead of him, there’s no reason that he still cannot carry the torch for the next generation of great American goalkeepers.