The du Nord Question & Answer Session With ... Kevin Hartman
Interview conducted and edited by Paul Demko
Kevin Hartman is Major League Soccer's all-time saves leader. He won two league titles with the Los Angeles Galaxy before getting traded to the Kansas City Wizards in 2006. Hartman's team is currently enduring a hectic span with four games in eight days. On Sunday the Wizards got bounced out of Superliga by Santos Laguna. Tonight they will visit the Minnesota Thunder in the U.S. Open Cup. I caught up with Hartman yesterday afternoon at the Hyatt hotel in downtown Minneapolis. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
du Nord: Your team is going to be playing its fourth game in ten days. What affect has that had on the squad?
Kevin Hartman: I think we prepared well for it. We were lifting two times a week and that kind of dropped just because of the fact that we were going game to game. We were making sure that we got into ice baths, getting massages. Just making sure that we were concentrating more on the opponents and that we were dialed into what to expect from them in terms of watching video and learning who the characters were on the team that we were going to have to be conscious of.
This is one of the only two opportunities you really have at winning a championship this year. We're on even footing with a lot of the other teams with what we have to deal with. We have huge expectations for the game tomorrow out of ourselves.
dN: What do you know about Minnesota?
KH: We had the opportunity to play Minnesota earlier in the year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The field that we played on was not necessarily conducive to really, really good soccer. I was actually very very surprised by how well we dealt with it. There's a lot of times when you're with an MLS organization where sometimes the technical side of stuff is a little bit better and you really feel that's going to be your advantage. I really thought that we came out and battled and rolled up our sleeves and did things that you're going to have to do to be successful on a field like that.
I know that Quavas Kirk, a guy that I used to play with at the Galaxy, is there. They have guys that have found success at that level and at higher levels, so we just have to make sure we don't go in there thinking it's a cakewalk.
dN: This is your second season playing at Community America Ballpark. Obviously it's not ideal in that it's a baseball park. What challenges has that presented?
One of the biggest dilemmas it presents is that we're a possession-oriented team and it doesn't necessarily fit that dimension. There's a lot of times where our best opportunities come off of a long punt, a knockdown and a shot. It's frustrating because I think that we really have the ability to play. Teams are just able to really clog things up and make it so difficult. Hopefully as time progresses we're going to figure out the ins and outs of the field and come playoff times it's going to be a huge advantage for us.
One of the huge things it presents is it's not set up necessarily to keep the sun out of your eyes. If it's a seven o'clock game, in the first half the goalkeeper has to deal with the sun. Yesterday we had a 5:30 kickoff so I had it in the second half and it was actually pretty brutal.
dN: You spent most of your adult life in Southern California. How does Kansas City compare?
KH: I'm really excited to be living in my thirties in Kansas City with a family. I'm always excited to take my daughter to the park. They have great parks. They have a wonderful zoo. It's my second year that I'm a Friend of the Zoo. We get to go have season passes and really experience what I think is one of the better zoos around.
With the Internet, if I need to go on Ebay and buy the newest Vans or the limited edition set of sneakers, you can always do it. You don't have to go to Melrose.
It's a little bit slower. If you would go out three Saturdays in a row you would probably see the same group of people. It's pretty small. You don't really have as many different spots that you can go to. In California you can be in Orange County, Newport, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Redondo, Hermosa. There's just so many different scenes.
dN: Kansas City is known for barbque. What's your favorite place?
KH: Oklahoma Joe's is the the best barbque in Kansas City. [NOTE: Oklahoma Joe's gets the full du Nord seal of approval]
dN: What do you usually order?
KH: I usually get the Z-Man. I actually ate the Z Man yesterday, to be honest.
dN: You're in your 13th season as a professional player. How long do you envision playing?
KH: I'm going to play until they tell me it's not good enough anymore. I'm going to continue trying to prepare myself and make sure I give myself the best chance to do it. I feel like I've done enough that warrants being respected, yet at the same time I don't want any favors. I'm not going to take a salary cut that would bring me back to the point where I could make the same amount working at McDonald's.
dN: Where'd you watch USA-Brazil yesterday.
KH: I watched the first half at my house. As I was brushing my teeth, getting ready to go to the game, Brazil scored the goal in the 46th minute. The game pretty much ended as I was doing my pre-game thing.
dN: What did you think of the game?
KH: The first half I thought we were magnificent. I thought that the guys tried to play -- and for me that's exciting. We were organized tactically. We weren't over-concerned with man-to-man marking and we were able to defend in zones. Charlie Davies impressed me. His ability to check back and hold the ball and really give us a release valve so that we could transfer from defense to offense effectively. I thought that the second goal that we scored yesterday was probably one of the better goals in U.S. history. Landon hits an unbelievable ball into open space, makes a great run. As an outsider watching it on TV you can see it developing. It's one thing to see it developing, but it's another to do it against a world-class defense at top speed. It was pretty classy.
dN: You're the all-time MLS saves leader, but you've only gotten five caps for the U.S. national team. Do you feel like you've been overlooked?
KH: I've had a ton of opportunities with the national team. I was in camps probably starting in '99. I played the first two games of 2006 leading up to the World Cup. We played Norway at the Home Depot Center, then we played against Japan up in San Francisco. I felt like I got opportunities. Was it frustrating not to get in and get more opportunities? It's always going to be frustrating. But at the end of the day, I don't feel like I'm dead yet.
dN: According to Wikipedia, you're nickname growing up in Radford, Virginia was Lil' Hink.
I don't know who came up with this. I don't understand how that came about, but it's been up there forever. Does somebody have some documentation? I don't really remember that ever being a nickname. Maybe I'll have to be the one to dispute it on Wikipedia.
dN: You wrote a children's book with your wife, Boots Saves the Day. What prompted that?
KH: Boots Saves the Day came about because I was doing work with the literacy program with Major League Soccer and I found myself in front of kids all the time reading, and the majority of the time I was reading Dr. Seuss books. No matter how much I love Dr. Seuss, I was always taken aback that I was a soccer player and I was reading about something that was totally non-soccer related. I didn't understand what the link was there. So I decided I was going to write a children's book. My wife won an Emmy for some of her graphics for ESPN. So she knows about graphic design and was able to do some of the art for the book.
dN: So the book is soccer related?
KH: It's a book about a small cat who decides that he wants to play soccer. He's presented with the problem that using his front paws in soccer would be a handball. Since he's a four-legged animal he decides to become a goalkeeper.