The Dallas faithful love him. Whether it's his goal scoring prowess, his sturdy defending or his slick acting skills, Matt Hedges has earned his spot to be called up to the United States national team January camp. Whether he will succeed at the international level is completely unknown, but that's precisely why he should be called up. On paper and on the field, Hedges looks the part of an international quality player but how will we ever know for until we see him suit up for the Yanks? So Mr. Klinsmann, here is my case for why Hedges should be called in.
Statistically On Par
Statistically speaking Hedges looks to be at least on par when compared to other MLS USMNT centerbacks, namely Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez.
I only say on par because statistics without context are just pointless numbers. So even though Hedges logs better defensive numbers than Besler and Gonzalez, they don't necessarily mean Hedges is better. Blocks and interceptions are a good example of this as SKC and LAG both play a more possession oriented style of play (53% for each team throughout the 2014 season) whereas Dallas was more of a counter attacking type of team (49% possession). This simply means that Hedges would have more opportunities to log defensive stats as his team didn't have the ball as much.
But even then, according to Squawka and their player performance rankings, Hedges still statistically matches up well with Besler and Gonzalez.
The above graphic is done according to per 90.
Proper Fit for USMNT?
I've also done some digging regarding USMNT's playing style and compared it loosely to LA, SKC and FCD to see if Hedges would fit into Jurgen's system well or not. Here's what I dug up:
In all 15 competitions USMNT averaged 50.2% in possession, with a pretty wretched 43.3% in games that mattered (World Cup). And despite claims of the contrary, the USMNT are not a possession oriented team and spend most of the game without the ball.
So how does this favor Matt Hedges? Well, if you've watched a little MLS and a little FC Dallas this year, you'll know that FCD are also not a possession oriented team. Dallas averaged 49% possession whereas LA and KC both averaged 53% of possession for 2014. I do realize the difference in possession percentages here are pretty small but the key difference here are where the teams are maintaining most of their possession. For the likes of LAG and SKC, a bulk of their possession is maintained in the attacking half, where the opposite is true for FCD and USMNT.
There was also an interesting dip in passes and time on the ball for the likes of Besler and Gonzalez during the World Cup. Besler averaged nearly 52 passes per 90 for SKC and Gonzalez averaged 47 passes per 90, compared to Hedges' 33 per 90. In the World Cup? Besler was reduced to 35 passes per 90 and Gonzalez was down to 39 per 90.
Again, I'm not saying this is automatic for Hedges, but given that he's spent most of his year playing a similar style to Jurgen's team, the transition should be easier for Hedges to get used to. Hedges at the very least has earned his call up. The rest will be up to him to prove that he belongs, which many of us here think he does.