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.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

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The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.