On Monday, the news became official: FC Dallas all-time appearance leader and club legend Matt Hedges signed with Toronto FC, ending an 11 season career with FCD. This week, in honor of a club legend, we’ll look at five of Hedges’ most memorable moments with FCD.
5) 2012 Rookie Season
After being drafted 11th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of North Carolina, Hedges was expected to be the 4th center back on the FCD depth chart, behind George John, Ugo Ihemelu and Hernan Pertuz, with Hedges making occasional appearances while learning under the veterans ahead of him, biding his time for the future. Ultimately, injuries to Ihemelu and John would thrust Hedges into the starting lineup much earlier than anticipated and, with Ihemelu’s injury ultimately ending his season and career, Hedges became a regular starter in 2012, appearing in 28 out of 34 games with 23 starts. He managed to add 3 goals in his rookie campaign, which still matches his season high over his career. Hedges was, unsurprisingly, a major candidate for MLS Rookie of the Year, ultimately losing out to fellow centerback Austin Berry of the Chicago Fire. Perhaps just as memorable as Hedges’ performances on the field in his rookie season are his performances in front of the camera as the FCD media team campaigned for Hedges to win the award. Feast your eyes on some truly glorious MLS 2.0 content:
4) Individual Accolades
Hedges was no stranger to individual accolades in his time with FC Dallas, accumulating two MLS Best XI nods in FCD’s back to back 60 point seasons in 2015 and 2016 and adding MLS All-Star nods in 2017, 2018 and 2019 (how he made the best XI but not the all-star team in 2015 and 2016 is beyond me). The individual accolades culminated in that 2016 season (more on that later) with Hedges walking away with the MLS Defender of the Year award. Put simply, in his time with FCD, Hedges was among the best defenders in the league and was arguably the best defender league wide for multiple seasons running. He is, without question, the greatest defensive player in the history of the club.
3) Rivalry dominance
In Matt Hedges’ time with FC Dallas, FCD were largely dominant in their biggest rivalry matchup: the Texas Derby against the Houston Dynamo. In Hedges’ 11 seasons with the club, FCD held El Capitan and won the season series against the Dynamo in seven of those seasons. In 26 MLS matchups with Houston across those 11 seasons, Hedges started all but 2 of those games, with both missed games coming in his injury-wrecked 2021 season (perhaps it is not a coincidence that FCD lost the season series with Houston that year). Perhaps surprisingly, Hedges only scored 2 goals in all those games against Houston, but his leadership at the back helped guide FCD to be largely dominant against their in-state rivals in his time with the team. In a newer rivalry matchup against Austin FC, Hedges led FCD to hoist the first Copa Tejas trophy in MLS in 2021, establishing early on who the big dogs were in the Lone Star State. Rivalry matchups in MLS are always tricky and chaotic affairs and Hedges’ record in them speaks for itself.
2) Becoming the FC Dallas all-time appearance leader
On August 21, 2020, in a game, fittingly enough, against the Houston Dynamo, Matt Hedges surpassed Jason Kreis on the FC Dallas all-time appearance list, making his 248th MLS appearance for the club. Already a club legend by that point, Hedges cemented himself with a record that will ultimately be difficult to break. Following the 2022 season, Hedges had totaled 325 MLS appearances for the club, with 310 coming in the regular season and another 15 in the playoffs. Hedges demonstrated a longevity and a consistency that is not common in the sports world in general, much less in Major League Soccer where roster turnover seems to be one of the only constants.
1) The 2016 season
Among a number of hugely successful seasons with the club, one stands out and towers over the others, the greatest season in club history in 2016. Hedges led the club to its first ever MLS Supporters’ Shield win and played a huge role in winning their second US Open Cup, first by scoring the game-tying goal in extra time against the LA Galaxy in the semi final and then scoring the crucial go ahead goal in the final against New England.
In addition to the massively successful season for the club as a whole, Hedges had his best individual season, being named to the MLS Best XI at season’s end and winning the MLS Defender of the Year award. It was a dream season for both the club and for Hedges as an individual and it is the moment that everyone involved with FC Dallas, from players to staff to fans, will remember forever.
What are your favorite moments of Matt Hedges’ legendary FC Dallas career? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports