Ohio-born goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is the owner of MLS records aplenty.
Making his name with the LA Galaxy before spells with the Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas, Hartman is one of the most decorated players in the history of Major League Soccer with three Supporters’ Shields and two MLS Cups to his name.
Much has changed with soccer in the United States since Hartman’s career began. The league and franchises have been through redesigns.
New stadia have been built across the continent, and the league as a whole has benefited from consistent injection of cash and star power.
Soccer has become a real force in America, a legitimate competitor with the big four where the biggest names in MLS are nationally recognised in their own right.
Hartman isn’t the most famous of MLS stars despite his accolades – his status is similar to that of Jeff Larentowicz. The timing of his career plays a part in that, as does the ever-undervalued life of a goalkeeper.
Where others paired MLS success with a raft of international caps, Hartman was used sparingly by the USMNT, stuck behind established goalkeepers in the pecking order.
With high-level performances and longevity to match, the former Galaxy stopper is safely regarded among the greatest goalkeepers in MLS history. Let’s rewind and take a look at his playing career.
Hartman was long considered a goalkeeping talent, though it was at the collegiate level that he really broke through.
First playing for California State University in Dominguez Hills, Hartman put in a number of impressive performances before moving on to play for UCLA in 1995 and 1996.
His college soccer displays meant Hartman was considered a solid prospect heading into the 1997 MLS College Draft.
Los Angeles Galaxy selected Hartman 29th overall in the third round, but was a non-factor as a rookie with Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos holding onto the number one jersey.
While an expansion draft saw the Chicago Fire select Hartman, the Galaxy were clearly wedded to the idea of El Gato as their first choice long-term.
Los Angeles traded Campos and Chris Armas to reacquire Hartman, with the deal opening the door for the former Bruin to start on a regular basis in his second season in the league.
Named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 1999, Hartman was consistent and crucial to successful Galaxy teams. He was integral as they won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000, and twice lifted the MLS Cup.
Hartman considers winning his first MLS Cup in 2002 as the best moment of his Galaxy career. It was made all the sweeter by their heartache in previous campaigns.
He said, “The relationships that I built here were so important for me. The friendships. The things that came out of the locker room and the events that tied the two things together.
“You think of the 2002 MLS Cup championship, after missing out on it in 1999 and 2001 and just being part of such a great group of characters.
“We felt like we had finally been vindicated that all the years of hard work and commitment had helped us accomplish something so grand and special. That’s the thing that really sticks out for me.”
With the 2006 season in the rear-view mirror, Hartman was traded from the Galaxy to the Kansas City Wizards.
His high standards were maintained, playing every minute of every MLS game while at the club, and starring as they made the postseason in 2007 and 2008.
El Gato was flipped once again in 2009, however, with the Wizards acquiring a future second round draft pick for Hartman from FC Dallas.
Records tumbled during his time in Texas, and he was named to the Team of Week in consecutive weeks in 2011. After passing the landmark of 400 MLS games in 2012, though, he did not have his contract extended by The Toros.
Hartman headed into the MLS Re-Entry Draft in 2012, but wasn’t selected in either round of the draft. He penned a free agent deal with the New York Red Bulls in 2013, though he made just one appearance for the club.
What Next For Kevin Hartman?
Football was always going to be in Hartman’s future even after he retired in 2013. Upon joining the Red Bulls, he had noted it as an opportunity to work towards coaching.
In February 2021, it was announced that Hartman was going to be a goalkeeping coach for the Galaxy’s men’s team, working alongside former teammate Dan Calichman.
This news came just a few months after Hartman was named LA Galaxy Academy Director.
The club’s all-time leader in appearances at goalkeeper has been a central figure behind the scenes at the club over the last few seasons, and with ties to youth soccer in California, it’s no surprise that he was excited about the academy role.
Speaking after being appointed in 2020, he said, “I am excited to continue to play a role in the development of some of the most talented youth prospects in North America.
“Youth development will continue to be a staple of success for the LA Galaxy and I look forward to supporting our Academy to ensure we are developing quality people on and off the field.”
Third all-time in minutes and appearances, Kevin Hartman is a true MLS icon. He combined top-tier play with supreme longevity, starting his career in the late-1990s and featuring as a starter all the way through to 2012.
Only one other goalkeeper in MLS history has more wins than Hartman’s 180. He’s the all-time leader in career saves and ranks 11th in goals against average.
His 13 shutouts amassed in 2011 with FC Dallas is one of the best goalkeeping seasons with only seven ‘keepers registering more clean sheets in an MLS campaign.
Playing for dominant Galaxy teams, Hartman became the first MLS goalkeeper to register consecutive 20-win campaigns and the first ever to put up back-to-back seasons with a goals against average of less than one.
Three times LA Galaxy Player of the Year and the franchise’s leader in clean sheets with 64, Hartman is a club legend. Only Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones have made more appearances for the Los Angeles team.