FRISCO, Texas — This weekend’s match against Minnesota United FC will be a special one for FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges. The three-time All-Star and former first-round MLS SuperDraft will make his 227th start for FC Dallas, which would tie a club record for the most in that category with Jason Kreis.
In honor of reaching this historic club milestone, FC Dallas beat reporters and broadcasters from multiple outlets gave their opinions on their favorite Hedges moment, what he’s meant to FC Dallas and how he’s grown as a player over the years.
FC Dallas broadcasters Mark Followill and Steve Davis went back to the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run to find their favorite Matt Hedges moment. Hedges scored a vital goal in the tournament’s semifinal win against LA Galaxy to help FC Dallas reach the final and eventual lift of the Cup.
“Matt’s had so many great games here and so many great individual performances,” Followill said. “The thing about how Matt has played, he’s so solid and he makes everything look so simple and easy that it’s hard to think of individual moments that stand out, which is a real testament to his solid nature of play and his consistency over the years. But, if I were going to point out a couple of moments, both of them to me center around the 2016 Open Cup run. Matt had a key goal in LA in the 30 minutes of extra time at about the 115th minute off a corner. He had the first goal that made it 1-1 before Victor Ulloa’s winner in stoppage time. And then, Matt had a wonderful diving header off the ball in from Mauro Diaz in the final of the Open Cup — that was a really important goal before halftime. New England had jumped out to an early lead in a goal by Agudelo. FC Dallas battled back, and ended up taking a two-goal lead into halftime. Matt’s goal right before the end of the half was a big part of that. In two really important games, in a great run, for silverware for the club, Matt had — a guy known for his defense — had two really important goals, and those moments will really stand out to me.”
Both Steve Davis and Goal.com reporter Jon Arnold both agreed with Followill about how special that semifinal was for both Hedges and FC Dallas.
“That goal, in LA, in a semifinal, in a tournament game to start the comeback, it was enormous because if you think about what that trophy meant for this club — they went on to win the Supporter’s Shield — that whole body of work, I think they kind of built on each other,” Davis said. “That goal, that win, led to the big win against New England in the Open Cup Final, and then that led to the Supporter’s Shield. Matt was the Defender of the Year that year. I think it all came together so perfectly, but that goal, when I think about Matt Hedges and big moments, all the little things that he makes so easy, but then the big moments — those count, too.”
“That game, against the Galaxy, it seemed like that was going to be the end of the road, and obviously it wasn’t,” Arnold said. “I think that speaks to obviously the fact that he can get forward and score, but I think more importantly, it speaks more about a guy who genuinely cares about the club and is kind of willing to sacrifice and do what it takes. I think that moment, I think it was a set piece drawn up, not for him necessarily, but for that intended purpose. It shows his commitment to work, commitment on the training ground and his love for the club. I think that was a cool moment.”
The moments Hedges has brought to FC Dallas are certainly special. While at the club, Hedges has won the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporter’s Shield and he’s worn the captain’s armband as well. He’s been a constant force for FC Dallas’ back line, and he’s been one of the leaders on the team for many years.
“He’s a talented player,” Arnold said. “Matt is a funny guy in that vocal leadership is not his thing, not his style. In interviews, when I interact with him, he’s very lowkey. That’s just who he is, and I appreciate that in the aspect of not trying to be someone he’s not. He wants to do his job, and he wants to do it well. He does want to be a leader on the team, but if Reto [Ziegler] is wearing the armband, it’s not a problem for him. He’s confident enough in himself, and he knows he doesn’t need something official to mark him as the leader. He’s going to lead with his actions, and I think it speaks to his character because I think a lot of players would’ve said ‘No, this is my role’ and would’ve gotten frustrated. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s very even-keeled.”
Arman Kafai, FC Dallas beat reporter for ProSoccerUSA.com, said Matt’s consistency was the most impressive part of the player’s game. Hedges has seen many partners to work with at the center back position throughout the years, yet he’s always been the reliable one for the FC Dallas defense.
“The one thing I think of is the consistency of Matt,” Kafai said. “He’s just a guy, who week-in, week-out, you know what you’re going to get from him. I think that’s phenomenal in MLS, and he’s been a steady force throughout. And also the leadership. He’s doesn’t really say anything, he’s not very verbal, but he shows it with his actions, and I think that’s huge. You can say whatever you want, but it you show it in your actions, it means a lot more.”
Kafai also noted the importance that Hedges has for both FC Dallas and MLS. As a former first-round Superdraft pick, Hedges has seen success from a process that most players don’t make it out of. Many get cut within a few years after their draft, but Hedges remained and he turned himself into one of the most consistent center backs in all of MLS.
“Hedges was drafted — let’s not forget that. He’s a story that not a lot of people talk about, but as a draft pick, coming in and having this success, getting that contract, not getting cut within the first couple of years, coming through and being a starter like that? That’s a success story for any MLS draft pick. He should be almost the model for any MLS draft pick. He came in, established himself as a multiple MLS All-Star, multiple US Men’s National Team appearances. That’s what you want when you’re drafted, right? I think what he’s done and how he’s done it has been phenomenal. It’s been a pleasure to cover him, it’s been a pleasure to watch him throughout the years.”