Throughout their respective careers, Kevin Hartman and Dario Sala have both received their fair share of accolades. One reason both of these veteran goalkeepers have been so successful is that they never stopped being students of the game.
When reigning UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan visit Pizza Hut Park to face FC Dallas on Thursday, both keepers look forward to watching their counterparts in the opposing net. That includes Brazilian Júlio César, a man many consider the best goalkeeper in the world.
“Júlio César is somebody who plays the game all the time and in a pretty difficult place,” Hartman said after training on Tuesday. “The expectations are just huge. Those guys, their total businesslike approach to it and the consistency they bring to the game are things I have the utmost respect for. It’s something you have to strive for every week.”
Hartman – who was part of an MLS Cup championship squad in 2005 with Los Angeles – also has great respect for how players at such big clubs like Inter handle the immense expectations that accompany playing for one of the most high-profile sides on the planet.
“They play a massive number of games every year with fans that have huge expectations," he said. "The press has huge expectation of them and they have to make sure they live up to that once a week, at least."
In 13 games for FCD – including starts in each of the team’s last 12 – the veteran keeper has been stellar. His record sits at 6-1-6 with five clean sheets and a goals-against-average of just 0.61.
“I’m always trying to watch and learn," he said. "Becoming a student of the game is something that’s hugely critical for players at all level. Any time I get to see games at that level, you put yourself in their shoes and try to see how much of it is what they’re reading and how much of it is instinctual and reacting.”
When Hartman joined FCD, he immediately became Sala’s backup. However, over the last several months, he has assumed the starting role with the veteran Argentine now occupying the No. 2 spot in Frisco.
The 35-year-old veteran is also looking forward to seeing the ultra-talented keepers from Inter on Thursday.
“I think we’re going to learn something from this game,” Sala said Tuesday. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for the people who can be successful for big teams, get championships and be part of historic teams.
I’ve been on teams not as big as Inter, but I have my own résumé that I’m pretty proud of. Just being able to shake their hand and congratulate them for winning Champions League will be a learning process for me.”