There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Matt Hedges.
At the beginning of the 2014 season, head coach Oscar Pareja named Andrew Jacobson team captain, but when the midfielder went down to injury early in the campaign, Pareja turned to Hedges for the captain's armband. With the trade of Jacobson to New York City FC, Hedges is expected to step into the captain's role for the rest of the season, a pair of boots he's certainly shown he's comfortable in.
“It means a lot to me," Hedges said after practice on Thursday. "It took a lot of faith for Oscar to put me in this position and I’m excited and ready to lead the team for the rest of the year,”
Although AJ is no longer with the team, there was a lot that the players learned from Jacobson during his time as the captain. Hedges mentioned that AJ commanded a lot of respect and was extremely vocal and those are a few things that he hopes to do in his place.
“There’s a few ways to lead, I think I’m more of a lead by example type but at the same time you have to be vocal so I’m working on that,” said Matt.
Pareja said that Hedges is absorbing the philosophy of what he wants in the locker room and on the field and his maturity is something that makes him stand out.
This isn’t Matt’s first rodeo as a captain and a leader. During his time at Butler he was the team captain and while he wasn't a captain after transferring to UNC for his senior year, he said he still thought of himself as a leader on the team.
With the second half of the season in full swing and the next few months crucial to earning a first playoff spot since 2011, Hedges says he can use the experience learned from his 2011 NCAA National Championship run with the Tar Heels as an important tool to lead the team.
“Getting through all those NCAA tournament games, and the final four and finals was an experience that I think can help me lead when we get to the playoffs,” Matt said.
With the end of the playoffs still a bit out of sight, there is one end in sight that is very significant for this group of players. FC Dallas will play in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal in the next coming weeks and it would be a huge feat for the team to take home title and captain Hedges believes they can do it.
“I absolutely think we can win. They’re teams we’ve played before so we know what to expect,” he said. “Just two more games and we have the trophy.”
Lifting the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup would certainly be a fantastic first major act as team captain.