Matt Hedges Gets USMNT Debut


The moment every FC Dallas fan has been waiting for arrived yesterday afternoon in, of all places, southern California. What day is that, you might ask? In the 72nd minute of yesterday’s 2-0 victory over Panama, Matt Hedges made his US Men’s National Team debut. Jurgen finally got the message.

Leading up to his entry into the game, the US had been dominating Panama. After two impressive, yet completely different goals in the first half, the US was cruising through the second half against their fellow CONCACAF opponents. Panama, it should be noted, is no slouch of a team. They were a late Graham Zusi goal away from qualifying for the knockout phase of World Cup qualifying ahead of Mexico (de nada, Mexico).

On this day, however, Panama looked no match for the Yanks, only managing to put one shot on target all match. Their best opportunity on goal came from FC Dallas’ very own Blas Perez. A misplayed pass from keeper Nick Rimando saw Perez clean through on goal. From 8 yards out, from an admittedly tight angle, Perez went for power and put the ball embarrassingly high and wide. Not his best effort.

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In many ways, it was the perfect occasion for Hedges to get his first cap. There was no real pressure being put on the back line. Hedges could go out and do his thing with little to trouble him. So, when Deandre Yedlin went down with a slight injury midway through the second half, Klinsmann made the easy decision to slide Hedges into the back line.

Taylor Twellman and Ian Darke gave Hedges rave reviews before he came onto the pitch, Darke calling him, “for (his) money”, one of the most consistent defenders in the MLS over recent years. Twellman contributed much of FC Dallas’ successes to the performances of Hedges in the back. As FC Dallas fans, we couldn’t agree more, Mr. Twellman.

I wasn’t even mad that Klinsmann was bringing him on out of position. After all, even though Hedges is a right footed player, he is not a right back. He is a rock-solid, punch-you-in-the mouth right center back that can play the position with aplomb.

Despite being played out of position, Matt Hedges did what Matt Hedges does. He didn’t have a whole lot to do, but he looked confident in possession and broke up several attacks down the left wing. No surprises from Dallas, Jurgen. We’ve always known what Hedges can do. We were just waiting for you to notice.

The problem for Hedges moving forward is that Jurgen Klinsmann is set on playing Jermaine Jones in the center of defense. While I am a Jones fan and I like what he brings to the USMNT, I don’t particularly like him at center defense. He still wanders forward too much for my liking and leaves the rest of the back line vulnerable.

The Jones experiment leaves a two-fold problem for Matt Hedges. First, Hedges is not going to get that right center back role from Jones (sorry to burst anyone’s bubble). Jones is too much of a mainstay in the squad to be forced out, no matter Hedges form. Second, because of the first point, Hedges will have to play one of two positions.

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  • The first would be right back. As far as anyone is concerned, Yedlin is the right back/wing back of the future for the USMNT. He may not be the best defender, but the guy has talent, and Tottenham Hotspur agree. The second position would be the right back of a three-man backline in a 3-5-2 formation. The problem with this, however, is that the US looked atrocious when they played Chile with a 3-5-2 (maybe because they didn’t play Hedges…). Again, as far as anyone is concerned, a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 is much more likely for the US.

    All this aside, seeing Hedges on the pitch was an encouraging sign for both FC Dallas and the USMNT. If he keeps getting called in to camps, he’ll continue to get the chance to impress. Here in DFW, we are always impressed. Keep up the great work, Hedges. Even if Klinsmann doesn’t see it, the FC Dallas faithful knows your value.