PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Matt Hedges

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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.

USMNT AT HALF: Dempsey, Gomez trade goals in chippy first half

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey combined for another goal, and the USMNT leads Panama 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama City.

A physical, chippy first half didn’t see many clear cut chances and was 0-0 after 38. minutes.

[ STREAM: Live on Telemundo Deportes ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening half-hour.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

STREAM LIVE: USMNT looks for 3 more points in Panama

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The United States looks to finish the international break in an automatic qualifier spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table when it faces Panama in Panama City at 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

A lot of the faces are the same from the 6-0 demolition of Honduras in California on Friday, though John Brooks and Sebastian Lletget are out with injury.

Jermaine Jones replaces Lletget while Tim Ream moves into the fray for Brooks. Geoff Cameron played Friday’s match with a minor injury, and moves out of the XI for Graham Zusi.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Ream, Zusi; Bradley, Jones, Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore

Subs: Bingham, Rimando; Beasley, Besler, Camron, Zimmerman; Acosta, Arriola, Bedoya, Kljestan, McCarty, Pulisic; Wondolowski

Reyes header gives Mexico three points in T&T (video)

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Diego Reyes’ 58th minute header off a corner kick gave Mexico a lead it wouldn’t give up in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Hasely Crawford Stadium in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The win gives Mexico a table-topping 10 points, seven ahead of last-place T&T.

[ MORE: Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica ]

The Soca Warriors were in fine, stingy form early, and looked to have gone ahead on the counterattack when Joevin Jones belted a left-footer into the Mexico goal.

The linesman, however, ruled that Jones was offside. He almost certainly was not, as Mexico’s supreme luck in CONCACAF play continued for at least one night.

Hector Herrera hammered a shot off the far goal post early in the second half as Mexico attempted to grab control.

T&T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams jammed Miguel Layun’s shot over the bar moments before the breakthrough from Reyes.

Williams then saved Javier Hernandez’s 64th minute offering as Mexico looked to put three points to bed.

Joevin Jones won a free kick in the 76th minute that gave a brief moment of light to T&T’s hopes, but Jones hit the wall and Mexico cleared the ball.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.