Palos Verdes’ Kevin Hartman has been a difference-maker for FC Dallas, perhaps No. 1 on a lengthy list of reasons the Hoops have been Major League Soccer’s best club over the past four months.
Hartman (Peninsula HS/UCLA), who joined FCD after Kansas City dumped him during the preseason, has been the league’s top goalkeeper since taking over for Dario Sala at the start of May. He’s got an otherworldly 0.58 goals-against average and nine shutouts, just two shy of Matt Jordan’s 1999 club record. With a little more fortune, Hartman might have another half-dozen clean sheets.
FCD (10-2-11) is 10-1-8 with the 14-year veteran in the nets and heads into Thursday’s showdown with the New York Red Bulls (12-8-4) with successive shutouts against Chivas USA, Columbus, Toronto FC and San Jose.
“I think he’s been tremendous this year,” Hoops coach Schellas Hyndman told the club’s Web site this week. “He’s absolutely exceeded our expectations when he’s stepped in and done as well as he has.
"He’s done a fantastic job on the point-blank saves, on the rebound shots and even the coordination with the defenders, that leadership and communication. All those things are tangibles that you find yourself in a world of hurt if you don’t have them.”
The shutout record would mean a lot to Hartman, who was a fan favorite during nine seasons with the Galaxy.
“Matt is somebody I still have a ton of respect for,” he told mlssoccer.com. “I know [original Dallas goalkeeper] Mark Dodd is somebody that was here for a long time that I loved watching. There’s a history of goalkeeping at FC Dallas that I have a lot of respect for. It would certainly be an honor to be up there for the top of that.”
This week's first two games:
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 15
Philadelphia Union (6-10-6, 24 points) at San Jose Earthquakes (9-7-6, 33 points), Buck Shaw Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.), 7 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
The expansion Union are in a groove now, and captain Danny Califf (Orange HS) is playing a big role on the backline. The switch from error-prone goalkeeper Chris Seitz (Thousand Oaks HS) to Brad Knighton was rewarded with a shutout win over Chicago, Philly’s initial clean sheet. Rookie of the Year favorite Danny Mwanga sustained a slightly separated shoulder against the Fire, and he might not play. The Earthquakes have a five-point lead (and game in hand) over Toronto FC and a six-point lead over Kansas City in the race for the final postseason berth. Khari Stephenson’s sprained left ankle could force him out again, but the return of oft-injured Brazilian forward Eduardo bodes well, especially with his countryman Geovanni running the attack. The Quakes have shutouts in their last three home games, and the Union are 2-10-1 on the road in all competitions but beat New England in their last away match.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 16
New York Red Bulls (12-8-4, 40 points) at FC Dallas (10-2-11, 41 points), Pizza Hut Park (Frisco, Texas), 6 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
Two of MLS’s best sides, and both are getting healthy or adding depth. The Red Bulls expect Rafa Marquez to play after he left in the second half of last weekend’s win over Colorado, and the addition of Moroccan-born playmaker Mehdi Ballouchy, acquired in a trade Tuesday for forward Macoumba Kandji, ought to add to New York’s attacking dimensions. FCD has shut out its last four opponents, carries a 14-game unbeaten streak and has won its last six home games. Center back George John (hamstring strain), forward Milton Rodriguez (shoulder strain) and midfielder Dax McCarty (quad strain) are expected back, McCarty after missing seven games.