CARSON, Calif. -- From the cusp of retirement to the brink of an MLS Cup Final, 2010 has been a rollercoster year for FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
Dropped from the Kansas City Wizards at the start of the season, Hartman was picked up by FC Dallas and reclaimed his spot among the best goalkeepers in MLS. After an impressive performance in Sunday's Western Conference Championship victory, in which he tallied six saves en route to a 3-0 Dallas win, Hartman was reflective of the long season.
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“I think in March, when you’re contemplating retirement and then you’re able to get into MLS Cup Final, it’s certainly rewarding,” Hartman said. “For me, you go from no longer playing soccer to helping a team get into its first MLS Cup and I feel like since I got to Dallas that I need to repay the people that brought me here, so I keep battling away."
Hartman made four decisive stops in the first half to allow his team to enter the break up 1-0 against his former club. He got into the minds of the Galaxy and chipped away at the confidence of the league’s second leading scoring team.
"Their goalie played out of his mind," LA star Landon Donovan said. "In soccer, a goalie can be a great equalizer and he certainly was tonight.”
Hartman pushes Donovan's shot wide
The right MCL injury suffered in the controversial incident involving New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry back in September still bothered Hartman on Sunday. In fact, his teammate Daniel Hernandez came back to take goal kicks and other set pieces. But there was no chance that his manager was keeping him out of the game.
“When he’s on the field he organizes so well and what you saw tonight was tremendous save one after the other, especially in that first half when LA was putting the heat on us,” FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said. ”He could very well be the man of the match, he was exceptional.”
Christened “El Gato” by the Galaxy fans during his decade long stay with Los Angeles from 1997 to 2006, Hartman moved to Kansas City for three seasons before the Wizards sent him to FC Dallas in exchange for a second round draft pick.
A former student at Cal State Dominguez Hills, the campus on which The Home Depot Center sits, the goalkeeper had several friends and family in the stands on Sunday. However, their cheers could not drown out the chants of “LA Reject” from the crowd.
“I respect the fans and I understand where their loyalties lie," Hartman said. "This was perhaps the most important match that I have played at The Home Depot Center since I left.
“It feels good to get the win, but it feels even better to have the opportunity to go out to dinner with my friends and family the night before the game.”