Call it a gaffe, call it a gift, call it an error in judgment.
It doesn't matter. FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's mistake against Real Salt Lake on Saturday set up RSL for what would eventually be a 2-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It was unfortunate,” Hartman said after the match. “I think the most important thing for me is it really kind of changed the game.”
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, Dallas 0
And not for the good for Dallas. In the 47th minute, when Hartman misread the spin on a dipping free kick from RSL's Andy Williams and watched helplessly as the ball dribbled out of his grip and into the goal, the match was still scoreless.
“It just seemed like the ball moved late,” Hartman, the winningest goalkeeper in MLS history, said. “They obviously had guys in the box kind of anticipating me losing it, and I just thought about that too much, and it maybe knuckled and got behind me.”
FCD coach Schellas Hyndman was as flummoxed by the error as Hartman was.
“I think that it was so easy that he took his eye off the ball, to be honest,” Hyndman said. “You see in the other football sport, when a ball is thrown right to a receiver and he’s got it in his hand and he drops it because he’s looking somewhere else. I think that was very uncharacteristic of Kevin.”
But Hyndman did not blame the loss the Hartman or his mishandling of Williams’ shot. More important, it seems, was the unexpected absence of captain and veteran midfielder Daniel Hernandez, which allowed RSL’s always dangerous midfield to dictate the flow of the game for long periods.
“We left [Hernandez] behind at the last minute and I think that there was a little bit of confusion in our midfield,” Hyndman said. “But I thought [our central midfielders] did do a pretty good job of just trying to stay compact and block the passing lanes and try to make the play predictable going out wide.”
Playing at Rio Tinto Stadium is never easy. RSL have a tremendous record and the altitude provides them with a natural advantage. Luckily for FCD, their next meeting with Real, on Tuesday in the US Open Cup quarterfinals, will be at home at Pizza Hut Park.
“We’re at home,” Hyndman said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for a recovery.”