One of Major League Soccer’s finest defenders is finally getting his due.
After narrowly missing out on the award last year, FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges was named 2016 MLS Defender of the Year on Friday.
Hedges, who finished third in the 2015 voting behind winner Laurent Ciman and runner-up Kendall Waston, was an integral part of FCD’s Supporters’ Shield campaign, anchoring the club’s back four on their march to the best regular season record in the league.
The 26-year-old appeared in 26 regular season games, all of which were starts, for Dallas this season. The club was demonstrably better when Hedges featured, conceding just 23 goals in his 26 appearances (0.88 goals against average) compared to the 17 they allowed in the eight games he missed (2.125 GAA). Dallas recorded 11 of their 12 shutouts with Hedges in the lineup. Perhaps most notably, the team was 13-4-9 when he played (1.85 points per game) but just 4-4-0 (1.5 PPG) when he sat.
A crucial part of Dallas’ run to the US Open Cup title and their successful passage to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, Hedges started both of Dallas’ matches in their Western Conference Semifinal series loss to Seattle.
Drafted by Dallas with the No. 11 overall selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Hedges beat out finalists Colorado Rapids defender Axel Sjoberg and LA Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme for the award. The once-capped American took home nearly 25 percent of the combined media, player and club management vote, four percentage points more than runner-up Van Damme and over seven points higher than the third-place Sjoberg. Hedges’ FCD teammate Walker Zimmerman finished fourth in the voting, while D.C.’s Steve Birnbaum placed fifth.
The Defender of the Year award was voted on by MLS club management, media and current MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results:
|Defender of the Year||Player Vote %||Media Vote %||Club Vote %||Average %|
|Matt Hedges (DAL)||21.77%||19.81%||31.58%||24.39%|
|Jelle Van Damme (LA)||19.73%||16.98%||25.00%||20.57%|
|Axel Sjoberg (COL)||6.80%||28.30%||15.79%||16.96%|
|Walker Zimmerman (DAL)||7.48%||12.26%||6.58%||8.78%|
|Steve Birnbaum (DC)||10.20%||3.77%||3.95%||5.97%|
MLS Defender of the Year Winners:
- 2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
- 2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact
- 2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders FC
- 2013: Jose Goncalves – New England Revolution
- 2012: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
- 2011: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy
- 2010: Jamison Olave – Real Salt Lake
- 2009: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
- 2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
- 2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
- 2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
- 2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
- 2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew
- 2003: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
- 2002: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire
- 2001: Jeff Agoos – San Jose Earthquakes
- 2000: Peter Vermes – Kansas City Wizards
- 1999: Robin Fraser – Los Angeles Galaxy
- 1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
- 1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
- 1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes