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Competition fueling veteran Dallas keepers

Several weeks ago, FC Dallas signed Kevin Hartman to add more depth to their goalkeeping corps. Though Darío Sala may be entrenched as Dallas’ starter to begin the season, head coach Schellas Hyndman said the presence of Hartman can only inspire the Argentine veteran to perform better between the posts.

“Just having Kevin here has kept Darío sharp, Hyndman said. “Yeah, there’s an all-out battle, but to be clear, Darío is our No. 1 ‘keeper. If Dario was going 95 percent before Kevin got here, he’s going 120 now, so it’s been nothing but positive.”

Hyndman expects Hartman to play if Sala has an injury or his form dips, and had nothing but praise for his new stopper.

“He does some fantastic things,” Hyndman said. “He’s a great shot stopper and has tremendous experience. And he’s a great communicator.”

In 2009, Sala was limited to just 14 games for Dallas because of injury -- but when he was healthy, he was rock-solid in goal. The Argentine went 7-5-1 with four clean sheets and a 1.51 goals-against-average. Sala’s backup from last year, Ray Burse, is no longer with the club, so he’s now looking forward to working with Hartman.

“I’m happy that he’s here and that we can build this relationship off and on the field,” Sala said. “The way that I go to practice and focus on the game, it’s something personal.”

Hartman, who spent last year in Kansas City before being out of contract and joining Dallas, won an MLS Cup with Los Angeles back in 2005. He admitted he wants to be FCD’s starting goalkeeper, but he also realizes that he has only been with Hyndman’s team for a few weeks and must first shake off any rust before he can make a serious push for the No. 1 job.

“I’m so excited about the opportunity that I’ve been given to be in Dallas,” Hartman said. “It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I got there, so there are things I’m still getting used to -- the structure of the team, the new ball and just really getting back into it. I am getting acclimated to a new place. I am going to continue to push, hopefully find myself an opportunity and grab hold of it.”

And even though the two seasoned ‘keepers are in competition for the top spot, that hasn’t stopped them from becoming friends.

“We are the only ones over 35," Sala said. "We are old. I enjoy it because he has credentials and he was a champion. He knows I told the coach he was a good option because I want my team -- whether it’s with me or without me -- to be champions. No matter who starts, I want to be part of that history with this team. If I’m not there, I want to have the best guy on the field.”

Sala will be in goal on Saturday when FCD opens against Houston, but in the next few weeks, expect Hartman to make a serious challenge to unseat him.