FRISCO, Texas — For the second time in a week, FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja made an emphatic statement about Matt Hedges: He belongs in the other red, white and blue.
“I’m going to send a little message here," Pareja said. "I think he’s ready to go and help us in the national team."
That wringing endorsement came during the coach’s postgame press conference after Dallas beat Chivas USA 3-1 at Toyota Stadium on Saturday. Pareja initially made similar comments after training on Thursday.
The match was a milestone for 23-year-old Hedges in another way as well, as he became the second-youngest player to wear the captain’s armband in MLS this season (Philadelphia's Amobi Okugo, who turned 23 on March 13, is the youngest).
“To be honest, that was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a game, just to wear the armband,” Hedges told reporters after Saturday's win. “It’s a great honor to get that. I’m just happy to keep going forward, improving and hopefully wear the armband more.”
Added Pareja: “That kid is leading us, and I’m very happy. His example on and off the field is outstanding, and his performance is even better.”
Against Chivas, Hedges stood tall in front of an ever-changing midfield that lost three central players: Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson left the match injured. To add to that trouble, early in stoppage time, Hendry Thomas was sent off.
And Hedges was already coming off a heroic showing against Sporting Kansas City the previous week, when he leveled the score in stoppage time and cleared a potential SKC winner off the line. It's no wonder the plaudits are quickly piling up for the lanky center back.
As for his coach’s assertion of possible national team action in his future, Hedges took the modest route.
“I’m glad he has the confidence in me to say that,” Hedges said. “And it’s great for the coach to put your name out there.”