For the first time in his young career, FC Dallas standout Matt Hedges was named the MLS Defender of the Year on Friday–after coming up just short in last season’s voting.
Drafted by Dallas with the No. 11 pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Hedges spent his senior season in college at UNC after playing his first three years at Butler.
As a Tar Heel, he helped lead UNC to an NCAA Championship in 2011–on the way to being named a First Team All-American and the ACC Defender of the Year.
The 6-foot-4-inch Hedges started 26 games for FC Dallas in 2016, with the team recording 11 of its 12 shutouts with him in the lineup.
In his 26 appearances this season, Dallas allowed just 23 goals–an average of just 0.88 per outing. During the eight matches the squad played without Hedges, it surrendered 17 goals (2.13 per game).
Despite coming up short in the MLS Western Conference Semifinals against the Seattle Sounders, the 26-year-old Hedges proved he can be key player for FC Dallas to build around moving forward.
The United States National Team has used Hedges in just one game–a slight he admits he uses as motivation–but that could always change as he continues to improve.