You never know just how important your backup goalkeeper is until you need him and for FC Dallas, that moment came at a pretty unfortunate time. With three crucial Western Conference games scheduled in an 8 day span, losing Kevin Hartman, the man between the pipes for 33 of 34 games last season, to back spasms just moments before kickoff in Vancouver was a blow that could have sent FCD into a slump. In stepped Chris Seitz.
A national champion at Maryland and an MLS Cup champion as the backup in Salt Lake, Seitz was given his first big chance in 2010. Having failed to find any consistent playing time behind perennial All-Star Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake, Chris was traded to Philadelphia becoming the #1 goalkeeper for the expansion Union side, put into a tough situation with an all-new back line.
Things didn't work out for him in Philly and with Dario Sala retiring, a door was opened in 2011 to come to Dallas where he would sit behind another perennial All-Star in Kevin Hartman. It may have taken over a year, but his next chance finally came last Saturday night north of the border in Vancouver where he was told just minutes before the game started that he would be making his first meaningful start for FC Dallas.
"It’s always a possibility, but you never know and you wouldn’t wish an injury upon anybody," said Seitz on his game in Vancouver. "I was definitely ready and it’s one of those things where I had a good warmup and kind of waited it out and eventually they told me to warm up again. By that point, I was ready and felt confident and comfortable."
Confident and comfortable are not exactly feelings you would think about with a backup goalkeeper that has played one MLS match in a calendar year, but the 25-year-old from California stepped up to the plate allowing just one unstoppable goal while coming off his line decisively to stop multiple Whitecaps chances.
"He was given an opportunity and with that opportunity, he's been able to be productive, building that confidence," said Head Coach Schellas Hyndman. "I think the reserve league games have helped as well giving him games."
In talking to reserve players who are given chances with the first team, every single one of them mentions the MLS Reserve League as a springboard to their success and Seitz was no different. Chris started the first four games for the first place FC Dallas reserve squad, allowing just two goals in four games.
"I think it’s one of those things with our reserve team this year. You’ve seen it with [Bryan] Leyva coming in and doing well, Bobby [Warshaw] coming in and filling holes well, Bruno [Guarda[[ as well," said Seitz on the confidence that reserve league play gives him. "It’s one of those things where we all have belief in each other and with our reserve team, we’ve been playing really well. We’ve gone in not easy places to play and gone out there and done well building confidence off of that and it carries over."
While the reserve league is great for building confidence, there's certainly no substitute for the experience of playing in front of a sold out Home Depot Center against the LA Galaxy with David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, arguably MLS' biggest stage. That was just the situation Seitz found himself in on Saturday night, playing his third game in eight days.
Playing in front of over a dozen family and friends, the man from a couple hundred miles up the road in San Luis Obispo produced his best performance yet, holding the high-octane Galaxy offense scoreless for over 90 minutes before conceding seconds from the final whistle in a 1-1 draw.
"You look at the matchups at the end there they probably had four or five across the front line just throwing guys at you. Each one of those guys has been a starter for a team whether it's Chad Barrett or obviously Keane, Beckham and Donovan. They're throwing the whole bus at us," said Seitz on the final minutes in LA. "At the end of the day, we held through for 92 minutes and were unlucky to not get it all the way through."
With Hartman likely returning this weekend, it was possibly the final starting performance in MLS we will see from Seitz for awhile unless another injury happens, but it's one that leaves FCD fans comfortable in knowing there's someone there to man the goal that is more than capable of filling Hartman's shoes. At just 25 years old, the early years for a goalkeeper, the thought of Seitz becoming Dallas' #1 when Hartman's days are up has become more of a reality.
"To me, the past week is something where he's kind of shown his class and his caliber," said Hartman. "I certainly am happy for him, I think that the amount of work he's put in the past year or so has definitely showed."