FRISCO, Texas – Proper nutrition, check. Training during the season and off-season, definitely.
Yoga – that’s a new item on the list of things 16-year veteran Kevin Hartman does to stay in playing shape.
It’s all part of a commitment to be game-ready and it’s been incredibly successful.
The goalkeeper will play in his 400th match against Toronto FC (8 p.m. CT on FSSW Plus), the first player in MLS history to reach such a milestone.
“When I was a 12-year-old kid growing up, I always wanted to play professional soccer,” Hartman said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
Hartman set the all-time matches played record last season, passing previous leader Steve Ralston who played 378. Every match played now is simply raising the bar.
To mark his 400th match, Hartman will be the honorary scarfer of the Lamar Hunt statue before Wednesday’s game.
“It’ll probably be something that will be very, very difficult for somebody else to achieve,” FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said of Hartman’s 400th match. “The guy has just been phenomenal as a goalkeeper and everywhere he’s gone he’s been able to lead by example.”
Hartman’s first match came in May 1997 with the Los Angeles Galaxy – the club he played his first ten years with. Hartman faced Brad Friedel, who played for the Columbus Crew at the time before heading overseas to play in the EPL.
“He was obviously somebody I looked up to and I was really excited about the fact I was able to get a shutout,” Hartman said. LA won his debut match 1-0.
Hartman said he didn’t know it at the time, but he was auditioning for a permanent spot in Los Angeles. The club wound up keeping him to go along with Jorge Campos.
“It really probably came down to that first group of games that I played and I probably didn’t realize the amount of pressure I was under at that point,” Hartman said.
The veteran partially credits timing for his longevity, saying there were few experienced ‘keepers in MLS when the league started.
“I came out and was given an opportunity to learn and gain some experience,” Hartman said.
Staying in the league this long, though, has meant a lot of hard work.
Hartman says he takes training in the off-season just as seriously as in-season work. That effort means staying injury free and remaining in the starting XI.
“A lot of it comes down to me demanding a lot out of myself day in and day out at training and having huge expectations,” Hartman said.
Hartman played in Kansas City after leaving LA from 2007-2009, before coming to FC Dallas with something to prove, Hartman admits.
“I was fortunate to come here and make it to the championship game. I really, really enjoyed that year of my career,” Hartman said.
Hyndman said it’s no surprise the goalkeeper has lasted this long in MLS.
“He takes care of the little things that people bypass, whether it’s diet, whether it’s rest or whether it’s just focusing and being psychologically strong,” Hyndman said.
Hartman said he would like to continue playing as long as he can perform at a top level and enjoy playing the game.“Soccer has been something that has given a lot to me and I feel like there’s a real need for me to give back to that community and that sport,” Hartman said. “I feel indebted. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”