The team’s bedrock has been a mainstay for seven years now, after a bit of a down year in 2017, 2018 saw Matt Hedges show flashes of his return to his 2016 form when he won MLS Defender of the Year. Though still not quite there yet, Hedges’ presence and steadiness at the back held this team together (again), and serves as a reminder just how lucky this fan-base is to have drafted such a fine defender.
Hedges finished the season with 2 goals to his name (regular season), which is a bit low given his aerial dominance inside the penalty area. His career high is 3 goals, but in reality he should be in the 5-6 territory every year. But this points to the ever growing need of finding someone that can take corners properly (but that’s for another post). Hedges finished the year with 1.6 tackles per game, a career low 2.0 interceptions per game and matching a career high of 1.0 blocks per game.
His interceptions per game drop isn’t due to the fact that he’s lost a step or because he can’t read the game as well anymore. It’s quite the opposite. Hedges is closing off lanes faster and reading the game better, thus positioning himself better. In addition, he’s paired with Reto Ziegler who also excels at defensive positioning, so neither CB is forced into making interceptions.
Game That Best Sums Up Matt
Admittedly, this is a bit of a weird one to choose given this was the one match where Hedges left the game due to concussion at half time. But that kind of perfectly summarizes his game doesn’t it? Puts his body on the line and gets things done for the team defensively. It’s dirty work, but someone’s gotta do it and he does it spectacularly.
This is probably my favorite sequence of Hedges this year. Puts his body between the ball and the attacker, holds attacker off the ball, then delivers an inch perfect slide tackle to keep Higuain from pouncing and launching a quick counter while simultaneously pushing the ball out of danger into Gruezo’s feet.
Matt Hedges has been a mainstay on the backline since he entered the league in 2012. He’s had a rotating number of defensive partners at CB, but one thing is for certain: This team is better when Hedges is on the field and anchoring the defense. And now at 28 years young, he’s about to enter his prime years as a centerback.