By Mark Ambrogi
Matt Hedges has used a soccer ball-sized chip on his shoulder for motivation.
“My whole career I feel like a lot people have doubted me and told me to my face they don’t think I can succeed,” said Hedges, who is in his fifth season for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer. “There were coaches when I was playing club that told me I would never play in college. It’s something that has stuck with me my whole life and makes me want to prove people wrong. All those things that happened to me in my career have made me the player that I am, and without those successes and failures, I wouldn’t be what I am today.”
Hedges, who didn’t play varsity full time until his senior year at Carmel High School, saw some action on Carmel’s 2006 undefeated state champion team as a junior. He played three seasons for Butler University before transferring for his senior season to North Carolina. Hedges started on the Tar Heels’ 2011 NCCA championship squad. Hedges, whose team opens the regular season March 6, is coming off a career year, being named to 2015 MLS Best XI in November. Ten of the 11, including Hedges, were named for the first time.
Hedges made his first appearance with the U.S. National Team before the 2015 season.
“I had never been called up to any youth national team before it,” said Hedges, who played against Panama in an exhibition. “It was my first action, and I’m hoping to get some more, because I was named to Best XI and Defender of the Year finalist. Hopefully, the coach will see that and bring me in.”
Hedges, who turns 26 April 1, said he made his greatest improvement as a leader last season in his first full season as team captain. He was named captain during the 2014 season when the previous captain got traded.
“We have a lot of young guys, guys that are barely even 20 years old, so they need somebody to help guide them and give them confidence,” he said. “I feel like I’m old now, so we have so many guys who are starting, and they’re young.”
FC Dallas lost in the Western Conference Cup final to eventual MLS Cup champion Portland.
“This year we are hungry,” Hedges said. “We’ve got new players that are going to improve our team and we have more experience with the young guys that are coming back.”