Interview With Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas Goalkeeper: Exclusive
July saw Kevin Hartman named MLS’s MVP of the month. He follows that accolade with an inclusion into our MLS Legends feature. The 37-year old currently leads the league in minutes, and we caught up with Kevin on the way to practice. He told us all about his stock portfolio, and how he’s managed to have such a long career.
Kristan Heneage: Congratulations on your July MVP award. What do you attribute to your career longevity?
Kevin Hartman: I would imagine it’s probably staying healthy and demanding a lot out of myself on a day to day basis. I always feel those things are important, so I constantly reevaluate where I am and where I need to get to. I think that has allowed me to stay on top of it. Soccer is something I really love and I think that shows sometimes in my play.
Do you agree that it makes goalkeepers unique in that sense because you become more valuable the older you get?
(Laughs) I don’t know about valuable, but I think your experiences begin to really pay off. I would say my ability to relate experiences I’ve had in my career to the guys in front of me is one of the most important things I do on a game to game, day to day basis. I think if I’m able to maneuver the guys in front of me to rectify a situation I’ve seen in the past so that I have a better outcome, I think it can be a real success.
I don’t want to make you feel old, but you do also top the league in terms of minutes played and you’re two games from taking the appearance record from Steve Ralston. How long do you think you will go on in MLS?
It’s something I consider on a day to day, week to week basis. I need to make sure I manage my quality but I also need to prove that it is just a number. So I make sure I consistently get down to the gym, and lift and get on the treadmill and elliptical, and continue to really push myself. I know Cobi [Jones] told me to play as long as I can. I’m going to try and make sure it seems right and I’m an asset to the team. I certainly want to continue playing rather than watching the game.
Bill Hamid was given his chance for the national team recently. Where are you internationally? Do you think you still have a part to play?
Yeah you know it’s the beginning of the cycle so they’re looking at the young guys. I definitely feel I could be a contributor to that team. I know Timmy’s [Tim Howard] done a great job, and there’s some other goalkeepers in the pool who’ve done great things. I have a lot of respect for Nick Rimando and some of the things he’s done at Real Salt Lake.
I’d certainly relish the opportunity. I think I have about 5 or 6 caps and I’ve been in numerous camps so I’ve got a lot of experience at that level, but I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously Bill’s getting his opportunity, I know [Sean] Johnson at Chicago got his opportunity at the start of the year, I had a knee injury at the start of the year so I wasn’t really available.
Jurgen is someone I have a ton of respect for, and I will just be patient with it and continue to push and try to make sure I’m someone that runs across his mind when contemplating his decision.
Is your German very good?
(Laughs) No I don’t have any German knowledge.
We hear a lot of the dominance of the West. Is there an Eastern Conference team you think could cause real trouble in the Playoffs?
I think that we have a lot of respect for every team we play. MLS is an interesting thing in that, I feel like on a majority of league games you’re facing an opponent that can beat you. I think the length of the season really does sift through some of that stuff, and you do see that the Western Conference does kind of rise to the top. I don’t think you can look at it as an easy weekend when you’re playing an Eastern Conference rival. I know we have Philly [Philadelphia Union] next week. They’ve certainly had a lot of success, and changed a lot of things in terms of where they are in league and their success since last year. So we know its going to be a tough place to play at PPL Park. That’s in the back of our mind in anticipation for the game against LA. We don’t really feel like they’re easy games. I know from my perspective as a goalkeeper, New York has a superb attacking group with Henry and the like.
I mean coming at it from a European perspective where the top team wins the league, does that occasionally make you ignore the league standings because you know you’ve just got to be ‘near the top’?
You know, I think that the players probably have more respect for the Supporters Shield sometimes than the fans do, or than the fans or the league give it credit for. I think a lot of us are followers of the English or foreign tables, so for us to be near the top is something that we’re excited about. We have a big tilt this week versus LA to try and get to the top of it. It’s something we think about on a week to week, and day to day basis, just trying to make sure that we’re near the top and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs. I would say the Supporters Shield gets you into the CONCACAF Champions League and something that I’d be hard pressed to say isn’t near the top of the list of things I want to win this season.
You mentioned the CONCACAF Champions League. How important is that for you in terms of everything you want to win?
I won it in 2000 for LA Galaxy. It’s different now because when we played it was a tournament style format in Los Angeles. Now it’s a home and away, a lot more like the European Champions League, so it probably has a lot more validity to it. It’s certainly something we take very very seriously as we do with all the competitions. I think winning is something you have to do on a regular basis, not something you can send one group out on one week, and another group another week and create a culture of winning. We continue to push ourselves through the eight games in July and I think we have eight games this month. So there’s a lot going on for Dallas in the summer.
Looking at FC Dallas season, a lot of the attention seems to be forming around Brek Shea. Just how good is he in terms of the guys you’ve played with throughout your career?
Athletically he’s probably the most gifted player I’ve ever played with. He’s strong, he’s fast, he has a willingness to defend and attack, which makes him a huge asset for us in terms of what we get done on both sides of the ball. I think he’s creative, he’s carefree, he’s got a willingness to attack and he’s willing to shoulder responsibility. It’s really refreshing to see that in such a young player so he’s really been a huge asset for us.
What about that mohawk? Was that something where you said ‘Listen come that to the side and you’ll thank me in 10 years time’?
(Laughs) Yeah, I let him do what he wants to do. I’m sure when I was his age I was doing the same kind of stuff, so really I plead the fifth on it.
He also played in the All Star game. From a selfish perspective, do you sometimes wish he could go unnoticed so you don’t lose him?
No, I mean you obviously want to see the guys have as much success as they possibly can. Careers aren’t that long so it would be great to see him be put on a stage that prepares him and would really help us at the national team level. He’s certainly someone who can do that. It’s been a while since we’ve had an out-and-out left sided winger like that. I think that any chance he could go to an international level and play be it; England, Italy, Spain or something like that would help with his development, and make our international team better, and financially he’d be much better off too.
How much do you think his emergence is due to the injury suffered by David Ferriera?
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to find anything positive about David not being with us. I think that we really had to reestablish ourselves with David gone, and as a group I think we became more workmen like. A bunch of guys have had opportunities they perhaps wouldn’t have had with David not being around, so that’s one thing that’s been good for us in terms of depth coming into all these tournaments. So there’s been a lot of opportunities we’ve had to give people because of his absence but it’s a stretch to say we wouldn’t rather have David around.
So is that the positive that you’ve drawn, that it’s almost evolved you as a team?
Yeah I think guys have had to kind of step up. I think if you look at last season, David shouldered a lot of responsibility, so now he’s not around other guys need to be stepping up. You see now our group has real quality, that’s why people now sit back and really appreciate what it is we do.
You mentioned Europe in relation to Brek Shea. Have you ever fancied it yourself? I can tell you the weather’s not as great, but it has it’s pluses.
(Laughs) You know I was over training at Roda JC and Belgium. I was contemplating going over. MLS significantly raised what I was being offered and I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and I was probably 25 at the time and I think the lure of staying on Sunset Beach was too much. I don’t know if anyone would come after a 37 year old keeper but we’ll see.
Looking back on your career, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed from when you first started to now, in terms of the game?
I think I’m appreciative of what my preparation is like. I think I’m pretty consistent with it. I think I have a better look at what the picture is. I think when you’re younger you’re trying to stabilize yourself, but I think now I’m able to deal with the pressures of it all a little bit better and stay at an even keel. I think that’s important for a goalkeeper, be it conceding a goal or recovering from that and looking at what’s coming next. Always just taking it one play at a time.
Do you think the rivalry with Houston has been impacted by you two being separated in conferences?
Nah, we have some great rivalries. I know Houston is one the Dallas fans take seriously. I think it’s always going to be a huge rivalry for Dallas. Just being from Texas you want to be the club that people think about when they think of Texas.
Obviously you have a few years left in your career but have you thought about after that. The two roles seem analyst or coach. Do you have a leaning to either?
No, I have enrolled into a speech course but I’m not sure if it’s just so I can do commentary. I think it’s important, even in terms of management to be able to speak well. I’m being patient with it, I have my A-License. I took the courses over the two previous off-seasons, I currently have one of the highest licenses you can get in the United States. We’ll see. I’m going to be patient with it.
Do you think goalkeepers make better potential managers because they see the game from a broader perspective?
I certainly recommend for my younger goalkeepers to try take coaching courses because I think there’s a lot of things on the field they need to be able to see and communicate with their teammates. I think the number of experiences we’ve had, coupled with time on the field, is what would make for a good manager. There are psychological aspects too because obviously how you speak to some guys over others differs, and you need to cultivate those relationships.
What about away from football. Any unique hobbies?
Well I have a four and a half year old so I spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter but if I have a spare moment on the road I’ll play some video games. I say that’s my guilty pleasure.
I’d say the more important question is does your daughter have goalkeeper gloves?
(Laughs) Yeah she does. They’re David James (ex-England international), so a big gamer. We don’t play soccer yet, but when I’m playing first person shooters, she can’t be in front of the TV. I have an iPad though so I use the learning games on there to teach her things.
Is that how you sold the iPad to your wife? It seems to be the staple of a footballers accessories now, a washbag and an iPad.
Yeah! There is so much you can do it. I’m an Apple stockholder too so I’m always excited to see what they have coming out.
Ah, so you probably are pushing them to your teammates and opponents! Do you see a corner kick as a business opportunity then?
(Laughs) Yeah I just get it out from behind the goal, I don’t really have to push it to be honest. It sells itself
You’ve certianly sold it to me. Thanks for your time Kevin, and good luck for the season!
Thanks, it was my pleasure! Hopefully we’ll talk again soon.