Sam Hamilton is all about the grind.
Whether it’s working his way into a starting role or battling back from a nasty injury, New Mexico United’s 26-year-old defender/midfielder takes satisfaction from the process.
Sure, he’s had some eye-catching moments. In 2019, Hamilton scored the match-winning goal against MLS foe FC Dallas in United’s stirring run to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
“Yeah, that was a good one,” Hamilton acknowledged.
It was one of three goals he’s scored since signing with NMU for its inaugural season, but the Colorado native and University of Denver alumnus doesn’t tend to weigh his performances on the basis of a single big play.
Even last season, when Hamilton missed the final three months of action after suffering a broken leg during a July game at Isotopes Park, he took pride in grinding through rehab and being on the active roster for United’s season finale. Now, fully recovered, Hamilton is serving as a team vice-captain and has played all 180 minutes in NMU’s wins over Las Vegas and El Paso. He hasn’t scored a goal or even taken a shot so far, but Hamilton says he’ll be happy doing the dirty work if it means a successful 2022 campaign.
Question: How did you get started in soccer?
“I tried a lot of sports. I’m from a small town in northern Colorado, so I skied a ton growing up. I played basketball, cross country, my mom made us do swim team, but it was always soccer for me. I’m the younger brother and my brother liked it, so I liked it. I got into it when I was like 3 or 4 and I’ve played ever since.”
Do you have a personal highlight so far?
“I wouldn’t say there’s a specific highlight as much as the whole journey. I think there are players capable of big, special moments throughout the year. I am capable of that, I’d say, but that’s not really why I’m here. To me it’s the number of good plays cumulatively that’s important. At the end of the day, did I make enough plays to positively impact the game?”
As a player who loves working through a long season, how tough was it to deal with last season’s injury (left fibular fracture)?
“When it happened, I knew right away it was broken and there’s a moment when you wonder if you’ll play again. That was tough. But the toughest part was that first month or so after surgery when you just have to wait. That was awful. I need to get exercise and compete to feel like myself. When you start to make progress, even just moving your toes, I felt good about that and eventually the process of getting healthy was a beautiful thing.”
You played three professional seasons before signing with United. What did you know about New Mexico at that time?
“I lived in El Paso for nine months in sixth grade, so we came through New Mexico on trips. That was really it. I didn’t know what to think when I signed but I love the people and the state. New Mexico is one of the most authentic states in the country. You don’t get people who are trying to act like something they’re not, which I think is refreshing.”
You’ve been with United for the duration and have served as vice-captain. What’s your early take on this season’s club?
I’m really excited for this year. As far as the group goes, it’s the most optimistic I’ve been. From a financial perspective, I’m confident that club can support itself and grow. Having (a new clubhouse) right next to the field with a film room, weights and a training room is a game-changer for us. I have a ton of energy and I’m really excited, but with that being said, it doesn’t mean anything unless we go out and perform. That’s the bottom line.”
Sam Hamilton at a glance
Age 26, engaged, family lives in Denver
Favorite sports team: Denver Broncos
Non-sports hobby: I like to cook.
Coolest place you’ve visited: The Virgin Islands
Favorite movie: I love the Batman series with Christian Bale. I haven’t seen the new one yet but I will.
Dream car: I’d love to have a truck, a (Toyota) Tundra or (Ford) F250, something like that.
Anything you’re scared of? Um, no. Not really.
Red or green chile? Green
Saturday: Orange County FC at NM United
4 p.m. ESPN+ (streaming), Estrella TV, 101.7 FM