I’ll admit that I’m biased when it comes to Kevin Hartman, one of those MLS players I root for no matter what team he’s on.
El Gato: Kevin Hartman trains with Dallas this week in Toronto ahead of today’s MLS championship game (AP Photo).
Hartman is from the South Bay – he moved to the Palos Verdes Peninsula while in high school – and went on to play for Cal State Dominguez Hills and UCLA. (The Hill, as it’s called locally, was my initial beat when I joined the Daily Breeze as a reporter more than a decade ago and if I recall correctly I actually interviewed Kevin’s father, then an official at a local school, for a story before I ever spoke with his son).
Hartman played 10 years for the Galaxy (winning two MLS Cups) and was part of the squad back when I swapped a spot in the stands at the Rose Bowl for one in the press box at the turn of the century. (That team, which also included the chatty likes of Chris Albright, Pete Vagenas and Ezra Hendrickson and was coached by long-time South Bay resident Sigi Schmid, was among the friendliest, most approachable – and most quotable – MLS squads I’ve covered as a reporter).
And when Hartman was unceremoniously punted by Kansas City before the season began I felt for a player – a person – I’d known for a long time ( I still remember interviewing Hartman in the sun splashed stands at Home Depot Center shortly before it opened as he savored his good fortune at getting the opportunity to play professionally in his adopted “home town.”)
So I’ll be cheering for Hartman and FC Dallas over the Colorado Rapids today at MLS Cup in chilly, soggy Toronto (5:30 p.m. ESPN) in what will likely be especially challenging conditions for goalkeepers (as long-time Galaxy fans will recall – and Hartman will undoubtedly never forget – from MLS cups past).
It would be a great story from a journalistic point of view if Hartman were to lead Dallas to victory after being such an unexpectedly key player for them this season.
And a personal triumph for a classy player on – and off – the fieId, too.