FC Dallas' Hartman plays hero role for teenager Sanchez

FRISCO, Texas — Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, FC Dallas goalkeeper Richard Sanchez watched former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman as much as he could.

Little did he know that one day they would train beside each other on a day-to-day basis with FC Dallas.

“Whenever he would fly and we’d call him ‘El Gato,’ I’d be like, ‘Wow, I’d like to fly if I can someday,’” said Sanchez, who led the Mexican Under-17 national team to a World Cup title earlier this summer. “I got to see him play a couple of times and that was really inspirational at the time, so that’s what kind of inspired me to play better.”

Hartman spent 10 seasons with the Galaxy, where he became a fan favorite with acrobatic saves that today hold him as perhaps the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history.

And after Sanchez signed his first professional contract with FC Dallas to become the sixth Home Grown player in club history, their career paths collided.

“It was mind-blowing being that when I was younger I would look up to the guy and now being able to train with him, it’s really an honor,” admitted Sanchez. “He’s a really good goalkeeper and he really does give me lots of tips and hints. It’s an honor to be close to him and learn from him.”

Said Hartman: “I’m certainly not a coach, but I feel like if I can mentor him in any way and try to provide a picture of what a professional is, then it will help him in the long term in terms of how he deals with the day-to-day and stuff that he does for the club.”

While they cross paths every day now around Pizza Hut Park, they nearly did so for the first time nine years ago in Van Nuys, Calif., at an auto parts store where Sanchez’s aunt worked.

“There was a time — I still haven’t told him — where I was out in Van Nuys, there was an auto parts dealer that my aunt works at,” recalled Sanchez. “She happened to tell me that Kevin Hartman was going to be there signing autographs. Right after school, I rushed to the auto parts dealer. I didn’t get to catch him on time, but he did leave a picture with his autograph on there.”

Still unbeknownst to Hartman, the story demonstrates the impact of his successful career on people. Gathering experiences during his time in LA, Kansas City and now Dallas, he assists Sanchez whenever possible and holds the young goalkeeper to high regards.

“I think that we have a fairly open relationship in terms of how we talk to one another and I obviously recognize the qualities that he has,” Hartman said. “He has a good attitude. I think that he really has goals for himself and he keeps things in perspective so everything I’ve seen out of Richard has been good.”

And everything Sanchez sees out of his childhood hero on a daily basis is added bonus to his budding career.

Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached on Twitter: @robertmcasner