It’s a rare week when defenders dominate the Player of the Week conversation across Major League Soccer, but with two goals in Saturday’s U.S. Open Cup final rematch in Utah, Chris Schuler set this week’s bar. Helping his team keep a historic clean sheet, the RSL central defender took home the league’s honor, with his team having exacted revenge on D.C. United, 3-0.
Farther south, however, another defender gave a noteworthy performance, with Matt Hedges’s early goal the first step in FC Dallas’s 3-1 win over Colorado. Providing a key goal line clearance early in the second half, the new FCD captain also contributed beyond the scoresheet. The question is whether he did enough to bridge that one-goal gap between himself and Schuler.
Unfortunately for the RSL defender’s case, there wasn’t much for him to do in his own end. D.C. United, down three goals after 24 minutes, only put two shots on target all night. Beyond his two goals, Schuler was only called on to make three clearances, one tackle, and one interception. A lot of his Player of the Week case is tied up in his offensive contributions, with a vanquished D.C. United failing to offer enough chances for Schuler to bolster his Player of the Week credentials.
Hedges, however, provided more than his score and goal line clearance. In a team that only kept 39 percent possession, Hedges led a defense that limited Colorado to five shots on target, with his 12 clearances, four blocked shots, and three interceptions translating his influence into the numbers. Though Colorado launched 24 shots at Raúl Fernández’s goal, the quality of those shots meant the Rapids never scored from open play. Hedges was a big part of that outcome.
As is the case any time somebody’s case rests on goals, the question is whether anybody make up the gap. Thanks to his goal, his crucial clearance, and his series of smaller contributions, that’s exactly what Hedges did.
Schuler may have had a Player of the Week-worthy performance, but this was not that week. While goals may get the headlines, but Matt Hedges gets this honor.