Ranking MLS goalkeepers: Dallas’ Kevin Hartman at the top

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By Round 7 of Major League Soccer the sample of matches is substantial enough to get a decent handle on relative, individual form.

We may not know definitively who still has it in 2012, who lost it, who has more of it, etc. – but we’re starting to get a pretty good idea.

Besides, ranking the positions is just plain fun, like snow cones or your favorite song cranked up to 11.

So let’s roll! Here are my Top 10 goalkeepers now in MLS. It’s a relative assessment that heavily weighs the here and now (current form) along with some consideration of long-term upside (future potential), all while allowing some small heed to the critical intangible of leadership. Think of it this way: If you started an MLS team today and needed a good goalkeeper for the 2012 season, which one would it be?

Here’s who I would take:

1. Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas

2. Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake

3. Jon Busch, San Jose                       

4. Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City                    

5. Matt Reis, New England

6. Michael Gspurning, Seattle               

7. Dan Kennedy, Chivas USA                     

8. Joe Cannon, Vancouver

9. Tally Hall, Houston                    

10. Josh Saunders, L.A. Galaxy

Rational, motive and intent: Hartman’s leadership and shot-stopping for FC Dallas have been nearly flawless since his 2010 arrival into Texas. His ability to deal with crosses isn’t the best in the business, but it’s not so bad that it keeps him off the top of my list.

Between Busch and Rimando, it’s more or less a wash in my book in pure ability; Rimando’s leadership puts him in the No. 2 spot. I haven’t seen enough of Gspurning, but I like what I have seen. Ability-wise, Tally Hall might deserve a slightly higher ranking, but this is just his second season in a starting assignment. Experience counts for a lot, but I might expect him to climb in a year or so.  

As for the rest …

There’s a really good crop coming up, and it’s not just two young U.S. internationals, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid. Chicago’s Paolo Tornaghi, D.C. United’s Joe Willis, Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath and the New York Red Bulls Ryan Meara all show promise.

Toronto’s Stefan Frei would have been Top 5 last year, but a dip in form and a pair of (possibly related) injuries meant that, well, I really didn’t know what to do with Frei for this list.

And Donovan Ricketts, who would definitely have been on the Top 5 at this time last year? He’s had some curiously wobbly moments this year in goal for Montreal.