FRISCO, Texas — With his legacy in Major League Soccer long secure, FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman added a new accomplishment to his career last weekend, becoming the first goalkeeper in MLS history to record 100 career clean sheets after FC Dallas earned a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution.
MLSsoccer.com takes a deeper look inside his 15-year career with a
two-part series focused on his best memories, championship runs,
longevity as a professional soccer player and future plans.
May 25, 1997: First career shutout
After attending UCLA and Cal State Dominguez Hills for college, Hartman was selected by the LA Galaxy in the third round (29th overall) of the 1997 MLS College Draft. Then, on his 23rd birthday, Hartman received his first career start against the Columbus Crew at the Rose Bowl on May 25, 1997 — and he recorded his first shut out in the process. No one could ask for a better start to a professional career.
“I had the opportunity to play against [Crew goalkeeper] Brad Friedel, who's also another fellow Bruin that I had a ton of respect for growing up,” Hartman told MLSsoccer.com. “To win 1-0 in my first game was something I was pretty excited about.”
367 regular-season games played
Fast-forward 15 years, and Hartman has played in 367 regular-season games. His biography in the FC Dallas media guide had to be extended to a third page because of the feats accomplished.
“I think probably a lot of it has to do with the opportunities that I’ve been given by management and by staff,” Hartman said. “I would also say that goalkeeper coaches have always demanded a lot out of me, and I’ve really demanded a lot out of myself.”
Hartman’s career average for games in a season (including his rookie year where he appeared in eight games) is slightly more than 23.5. He has appeared in 30 games or more in a season seven times. Simply put, Hartman is an iron man. Durability and consistency are the qualities of great athletes, and the 6-foot-1 goalkeeper has them both.
Hartman’s nickname around the league is “El Gato” because of his catlike
reflexes and those reflexes have given him another MLS record. As of
June 4, Hartman has 1,325 saves. Among the most recent saves on his
career highlight reel come from the 2010 Western Conference Championship
against the Supporters' Shield-winning LA Galaxy.
“[David] Beckham had a long ball where Ugo [Ihemelu] kind of let it go and, all of a sudden, it was going upper on me and I was able to turn that one around,” he recalled.
With the help of Hartman and a three-goal outburst, FC Dallas advanced to their first MLS Cup in franchise history. But there are more saves assembled in Hartman’s self-titled "memory reel."
“There was a save at the Rose Bowl, when Stern John was in the league and he was playing for Columbus," Hartman recalled. "There had been a ball that had been cut back to maybe the six- or the seven-yard line at the near post, and he literally headed it down into the corner. It skipped by and I was able somehow to reach behind myself and pull it back out of the goal.”
The Ohio native’s path to success in MLS has not been an easy one. He’s learned from several of the game's best and gives credit where it’s due. The ‘keeper who wears size 10 gloves and has 163 career victories in 362 games detailed a long list of coaches and trainers who have helped him develop into one of the best goalkeepers in North American soccer history.
Among the names mentioned: UCLA goalkeeper coach Drew Leonard, former LA Galaxy goalkeeper coach Zak Abdel, former Sporting Kansas City fitness and goalkeeper coach Dave Tenney, current SKC goalkeeper coach John Pascarella and FC Dallas’ Drew Keeshan.
Hartman has also endured plenty of competition on the depth charts, not least from New England goalkeeper Matt Reis when he was at the LA Galaxy.
“Reis is somebody that I had to keep on the bench and had to compete with on a day-to-day basis,” said Hartman. “That’s a task that’s one of the more difficult things that I’ve dealt with in my career.”
Wherever he’s gone, Hartman has been ready for the challenge and taken nothing for granted.
Two MLS Cup championships and two US Open Cup titles
While with the Galaxy, Hartman won MLS Cup twice — in 2002 and '05 — recording shutouts in both games. He also won the country’s oldest domestic tournament, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, in '01 and '05.
Hartman has fond memories of his time in Los Angeles.
“I think that the team that went to Foxborough and won away from home in front of 60,000 fans was a great team,” Hartman said of the '02 title game, a 1-0 double-overtime victory for the Galaxy over the hometown Revolution. “The fact that we were able to do it with a shutout — I don’t even think I had to make too many saves that day if memory serves me correctly.”
In addition to the four championships with the Galaxy, Hartman’s teams have won the Supporters Shield twice, the CONCACAF Champions' Cup once and participated in four Western Conference Championships — most recently in 2010, his first season with FC Dallas.
June 4, 2011: 100th career shutout
Last Saturday at Pizza Hut Park, Hartman achieved perhaps his most prolific personal accomplishment to date with his 100th career shutout.
“I honestly feel like it’s a great milestone," Hartman said. "I think the thing that is most important to me is just the longevity of it and how long it has taken to accrue. I don’t take that for granted. I really wanted to be a professional soccer player growing up and I dedicated myself to that.”
Hartman joins an elite group worldwide. According to Opta, English Premier League goalkeepers with 100 career shutouts include Dutch international Edwin van der Sar (133), Englishman David James (170), US great Brad Friedel (118) and Chelsea’s Petr Cech (118).
US goalkeepers have been known for their longevity, and the 37-year-old hopes to continue to add to his numbers in MLS.
“I feel fit and I feel healthy, and it’s something that I continue to work on," Hartman said. "As long as I’m healthy and as long as I feel like I’m capable of doing it, then I want to do it."