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.”
"El Gato" at his best.
Check back with MLSsoccer.com Friday for the second part in the series.