FRISCO, Texas – When George John took a ball to the face and was forced out in the second half of a gritty contest against New England last Thursday, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman did not hesitate to turn to rookie defender Matt Hedges.
“It’s good to know that coach has the confidence to put me in with the game tied 0-0,” Hedges told MLSsoccer.com. "It was a tight game. It’s just good to know he can trust me to go in and do the job. It was a fun experience. Five games into the season, and I’m already getting to go in as a center back when there are a lot of great center backs on this team.”
WATCH: Hedges goal called back
Hedges played a total of 19 minutes and sent the home crowd into a frenzy after nearly winning the match in the 77th minute. The rookie out of North Carolina headed the ball in the back of the net off a corner kick and began celebrating with his teammates, but the officials waived it off, claiming the ball had gone out of bounds first.
“On free kicks, I’m I always looking to attack the ball,” Hedges said. “I saw that Fabián [Castillo] kind of lofted it to the far post. I was originally making a near-post run like we do on most of our kicks, but I switched it up. I thought I ended up winning it, but unfortunately, it went out.”
The early prognosis is a concussion for John, who will have a week to recover as FC Dallas host Montreal on Saturday. If John is unable to go, don’t be surprised if Hyndman looks Hedges’ way yet again.
“I'm not really complaining with George picking up the injury since we have Matt back there,” Hyndman said. “We will have to wait and see how long George is out. But Matt showed a lot of composure, and he really reminds me of George in his first year.
“We are going to evaluate George and see how he is. With all the studies on concussions, you always want to favor the protection of the player. I felt like we did everything right, and he will be evaluated by the experts.”
The 22-year-old Hedges is determined to show he can get the job done and help improve a back line that has already surrendered eight goals this season. He explained that his "confidence" helped him play with the intensity Hyndman has been asking for from his defense.
“I think every day in training you just have to keep working hard and getting better every day,” Hedges said. “I want to build on those 20 minutes. It was good experience, but I want to be on the field more than that. I just have to keep working hard and show coach that I’m getting better, and he can trust me more and more.”