Tonight is not only the first Texas Derby of 2020 but it’s also a special night for Matt Hedges, as he takes sole ownership of the record for most MLS regular-season games for FC Dallas.
“It’s just a great honor to be with this club for such a long time,” said Hedges after tying the record in Sunday’s draw with Nashville. “I mean, they took a chance drafting me and, you know, I’m glad to be able to repay them with a lot of great years. So hopefully, there’s many more to come.”
Hedges, and the man whose records are falling – Jason Kreis – both featured in 3rd Degree’s Top 5 Best Players list as well as topping their individual positions.
Drafted with the 11th pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Hedges arrived in Dallas as an NCAA Champion with UNC and was the best-regarded defender in the draft class. The defensive situation in Frisco was pretty good at the time with George John, Ugo Ihemelu, Zach Loyd, and Hernan Pertuz all competing for the start in central defense.
Hedges wouldn’t have to wait long for his first opportunity, replacing an injured John five games into the 2012 season. Hedges defensive partner for the final 19 minutes, Ihemelu, scored an injury-time winner against the New England Revolution that day.
Three more substitute appearances followed before Hedges would get his first start – in a 2-0 loss at home to Seattle – after Ugo Ihemelu suffered a concussion that would eventually end his career. Hedges stepped up from there forming a firm partnership with George John in 23 consecutive starts with three goals to end the season.
Hedges broke Kreis’ mark of 227 starts and 20,290 minutes in MLS regular season play last year before he even turned 30. Both players achieved their 247th regular-season game in their ninth season with the team.
Kreis’ Dallas career ended when he was unceremoniously traded to expansion side Real Salt Lake where he would play out the final two years of his career before leading RSL to MLS Cup as the youngest coach to win the league’s top prize.
Hedges, the 2016 MLS Defender of the Year, wants to be a one-club player – an honor Kreis shamefully wasn’t granted – but isn’t ready to call it a day just yet.
“For somebody to stay with – especially in MLS – to stay with one club for their whole career… it’s a little bit surreal because I didn’t expect that it would be me,” said Hedges. “[I’d like to] Maybe play a few more years, hopefully, and maybe get into coaching. I think that’s what I would like to do, maybe I can be a coach here someday.”
Like Kreis, Hedges has been largely overlooked by the US Men’s National Team despite consistent accolades proving both players’ credentials. FC Dallas President Dan Hunt was quick to mention that in his assessment of Hedges’ impact on FC Dallas.
“He’s been an unbelievable representative of this club,” said Hunt. “I feel the great unfairness for Matt Hedges is that he has not gotten more national team looks.”
“I feel like he is a fabulous soccer player,” Hunt continued, “he’s a fabulous man. He’s a great leader, a quiet leader, but he leads by example.”
“And so I think, more than anything, just thank you. Thank you for always being all-in on FC Dallas all the time.”