PRESS CONFERENCE | Matt Hedges Introduction - December 20, 2022

On a crisp, late Tuesday afternoon a few days before Christmas the newest member of Toronto FC was introduced at the BMO Training Ground.

Matt Hedges, signed as a free agent, was officially announced by the club on Monday. The 32-year-old defender spent the last 11 seasons with FC Dallas, the club who drafted him 11th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Having captained the side since 2014 he departs as their all-time MLS appearance leader.

One of the most sought after members of this off-season’s free agents, Hedges explained why he chose Toronto.

“Bob [Bradley] as a coach, fantastic players, fantastic staff, a winning tradition – championships, getting to the final – that's something that I want to do,” he said. “That’s a great recipe for success. I think I can be part of that.” 

Leaving the only club he had ever known was hard, but it was time.

“It was a difficult decision,” said Hedges. “I’ve been there for a long time, it’s become like a home for me, the club and the city, but that's this business.”

“We couldn't agree on some things and, at the same time, I thought why not take a new challenge,” he added. “I'd been there for a long time, done a lot there in my career, so I wanted to start fresh.”

The TFC brass were pleased with his decision.

“The one word, how I describe him is, ‘champion,’” said Toronto President Bill Manning. “Won an Indiana State Championship, won an NCAA championship, won a US Open Cup, won a Supporters’ Shield.”

“We told him there's one missing,” he smiled. “So hopefully he'll bring us an MLS Cup.”

“Really excited that Matt chose to come and be part of TFC,” said TFC Head Coach Bob Bradley. “A player that has been in the league for a while and what really stands out is the respect that he has earned from teammates, from guys that have played against him.”

“Matt, over the course of his career, has just been dependable, really good, important to his team, a leader,” he listed. “And when we started thinking about ways that we could continue this building process, we started talking about getting more of the right kind of guys, and Matt, in all ways, has shown that he has the qualities that we think help make a winner.”

In need of defensive reinforcements, the possibility of Hedges being available caused ears to perk up in Toronto.

“We knew he was going into free agency,” outlined Manning. “He was one of our prime targets and the prime target when we heard there was some interest. He had interest from a number of clubs, but he was our guy.”

Hedges toured a few clubs over the off-season before being spotted at a Toronto Maple Leafs game at the end of November.

“Visited a few clubs, just to see the facilities. That's why I wanted to go, to see the facilities, meet the coaching staffs, some of the players, I wanted to get a feel for the team,” explained Hedges. “I had a really positive visit with Toronto here. That’s what those visits were for and I ended up picking Toronto because of that.”


He also liked the ambition Toronto has shown by recruiting the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, as well as the chance to line up with his former US Men’s National Team teammate Michael Bradley.

“Absolutely,” replied Hedges. “That ambition, bringing those guys in, it was a big signal to me that they want to try to win. That's what I want to do.”

“It’ll be nice having him playing on my team for a change,” he joked of reuniting with Bradley. “He’s a great player, a great leader. A general on the field. I’m really happy to be playing with him.”

Recruiting a veteran free agent defender with tons of MLS experience has been very successful for TFC in the past.

Justin Morrow, Jason Hernandez, Steven Beitashour, Clint Irwin, and Drew Moor come immediately to mind.

Asked his thoughts on the Moor comparison in particular, Hedges replied: “I've heard that a few times.”

“I know Drew pretty well, I know what he meant to the club,” he explained. “I hope I can be that sort of player for the club now that I’m here.”

He will wear the number two jersey, formerly made famous by Morrow.

“It's a number I've worn before,” he said. “Dallas gave it to me when I was a rookie, so nice to get to pick it this time.”

Accompanied to the press conference by his wife, Bea, Manning said she was ‘the key’ to luring Hedges to TFC.

“We had a chance to get to know them both at a Maple Leafs game, dinner prior,” he explained. “Bob had a great conversation with them. I know it was a big decision, but we couldn't be more pleased.”

Said Hedges: “They took great care of us while we were here on the visit. We saw how well they treat the families. My family is a big part of what I do. And so I just love how well they took care of them.”

The Hedges will spend the holidays with his family in Indiana before he reports to preseason in January.  Bea and the kids, a three-year old and a seven-month old, will come and settle in once the team is based back in Toronto.

Attempting to explain the intricacies of MLS roster rules and player movement to anyone, let alone a toddler, usually only ends one way: a puzzled look of acceptance with a hint of excitement.

Such was the case when Hedges laid out the move for his three-year-old son.

“‘Oh, Toronto. Yeah, yeah,’” was the response, according to the defender.

“He knows what’s going on, but I don’t know that he really knows that we're leaving Dallas, but he's excited either way,” he added. “You give him the shirt with ‘Toronto’ on it and he goes ‘I’m on Toronto.’ It’s fun.”

An elder statesman for a young Dallas side, Hedges knows he will be walking into a different type of dressing room in Toronto, but he sees no need to change the way he works.

“I'm just going to do what I did,” he explained. “Just work hard and be a leader by my work.”

“I'm not going to yell – I’m not a big yeller. If I need to I will, but I just want to lead by example,” Hedges continued. “In Dallas, when I did that, guys want to follow. If you do that they’re going to follow you, so that’s what I’m going to do.”