Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who recently broke the all-time MLS record for consecutive games played, was voted by fans in a 10th season celebration poll as the best late-round draft pick in league history. The UCLA product has played more than 200 games for the Galaxy, including the last 92 in a row, since joining the club as the 29th overall pick (out of 30) in the 1997 MLS College Draft.
Hartman, who earned 31 percent of the total votes in the poll, is near the top of almost every statistical category for goalkeepers in MLS, including holding the top spot in wins. His 103 victories is just one ahead of current Chicago Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton. Hartman is in second place in shutouts with 53 and goals against average at 1.17. The California native wasted little time getting to work for his first, and only, professional club, as he made eight appearances during his rookie season, earning his first shutout in his debut.
He took the reins as the regular starter in his sophomore campaign in 1998 and he led all goalkeepers that season with 22 games won. Hartman reached the 20-win plateau for the second time the next season and he was rewarded for his efforts by being named the MLS Pepsi Goalkeeper of the Year, as well as picking up a spot on the AT&T Best XI. Hartman's excellence has continued ever since, as he helped the club reach four championship matches, of which they claimed one U.S. Open Cup title (2001) and one MLS Cup (2002).
Taking second place in the poll with 21 percent is current MetroStars striker Ante Razov, also selected by the Galaxy as the 27th pick (of 30) in the 1996 MLS College Draft. Also a former UCLA player, Razov spent two seasons at the Galaxy, during which he saw action in only six games. However, his move to the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998 proved to be a catalyst to success, as the made 30 appearances during the club's MLS Cup championship inaugural season.
Razov has proven to be one of the most potent forwards in the league through the years, hitting double digits five times, including the 2000 season for the Fire when he netted a personal-best 18 goals. Razov moved to the Columbus Crew prior to this season and moved yet again after a midseason trade between the Crew and the MetroStars.
The bronze medal winner in the poll was U.S. national team and Leeds United (England) winger Eddie Lewis, who began his professional career after being selected 23rd overall by the San Jose Clash (now the Earthquakes) in the 1996 College Draft. Yet another product from perennial soccer power UCLA, Lewis spent four seasons in the Bay Area before starting his European adventure. He made 115 MLS appearances for the Clash during his tenure in the league, netting nine goals and adding 35 assists. He is now considered one of the most talented outside players that the U.S. has produced, his skilled left foot providing many dangerous crosses.
Other players receiving votes in the poll were Greg Lalas, Jesse Marsch, Joe Franchino, Ian Russell, Jeff Parke, Jack Jewsbury and Davy Arnaud.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.