FRISCO, Texas — The MLS playoff record books are littered with Kevin Hartman’s name.
Most games started: 48. Most wins: 24. Most shutouts: 15.
To the FC Dallas goalkeeper, the playoffs are nothing new. But despite his unprecedented success and vast experience in postseason play, Hartman thinks leadership is an over-valued trait.
“We can talk about leadership, but at the end of the day, guys really need to be responsible for what they are expected to bring to the table,” Hartman told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday’s training session, the team’s final practice before facing New York in a wild card match on Wednesday (8 pm CT, FOX Soccer). “Each individual on the field needs to take care of his responsibilities, and the leaders will guide us.”
Since his MLS debut in 1997, Hartman has reached the MLS Cup final five times, winning it with the LA Galaxy in 2002 and 2005. In Dallas’ run to the 2010 MLS Cup final, Hartman led the league in saves with 16, including six in a 3-0 shutout at LA in the Western Conference Championship.
Defender George John, playing in his third season with FC Dallas, values having Hartman as the last line of defense.
“He’s helped me a lot throughout my career, especially in the playoffs last year,” said John. “It’s comforting. It gives me and the rest of the back line a lot of confidence to have him behind us.”
Ugo Ihemelu, who first played with Hartman as a rookie in LA in 2005, echoes John’s confidence in the 37-year-old ‘keeper.
“It just gives you confidence as a team,” Ihemelu said. “He’s somebody that can pull a save out of nowhere. It’s nice to have that reliability in goal.”
Relying on Hartman has been a consistent theme throughout the 2011 season. In his league-leading 13 shutouts, the team compiled a 10-0-3 record; in all other games, they were 5-12-4. And in May, Hartman and the Dallas defense recorded the longest shutout streak of the season at 531 minutes.
But Dallas’ attack has disappeared in the latter stages of the season, producing a mere six goals in their final seven MLS matches, a span in which the team finished 2-5-0, including a 1-0 home loss to New York.
“If this is a group that we want to go down in the history of FC Dallas, then we are certainly going to have to raise our game and get everything sorted out,” said Hartman. “Guys like myself, we don’t get many more chances at it, so we are obviously going to put pressure on guys and really demand a lot.”
If history is any indication, Hartman will be ready for Wednesday’s match with the New York Red Bulls. And if the team is looking for a leader, they need not listen to Hartman, but follow his example.