Matt Hedges’ first MLS experience away from Dallas didn’t go as planned.
Signed by Toronto FC prior to the 2023 season, defender Matt Hedges’ stay up North has already ended.
Toronto is sending 2016 MLS Defender of the Year to Austin FC in exchange for $500,000 in general allocation money per The Athletic’s Tom Bogert.
As the dust settles on the swap, was it the right move for both teams?
Toronto FC: A
When Hedges signed, he was envisioned to be a part of a juggernaut Toronto team featuring two of the highest-paid players in the league. Expectations were sky-high, and the reality has been equally disappointing. Toronto sits 14th in the Eastern Conference with the third-fewest points in the entire league. Bob Bradley has been fired and another roster overhaul begins for the Reds.
At 33, Hedges’ future didn’t lie in Toronto. The club is likely to look for younger options at the back as they look to develop a winning team once again.
Getting $500,000 is a quality sum in return for a player no longer fitting the clubs’ profile. To make them move even sweeter, at $776,250/yr, Hedges was also Toronto’s fourth highest-paid player following the expiration of fellow defender Richie Laryea’s loan.
The Reds have added to their war chest while creating flexibility, even this move can’t backfire.
Austin FC: B+
Defender Leo Väisänen has been out for nearly two months since tearing the LCL in his right knee. In his absence, Josh Wolff has started a few different pairs in defense.
Defensive mainstay and CB1 Julio Cascante was first paired with a more natural midfielder Alexander Ring before he too went down. Next came Aleksandar Radovanović, who has since had his loan from K.V. Kortrijk ended early.
Wolff’s most recent partnership has been with Cascante and Kip Keller. Keller’s contributions have been admirable, but the 23-year-old requires more seasoning.
Enter three-time All-Star Matt Hedges who provides perfect depth. Over 400 appearances across 12 seasons make Matt Hedges one of the league’s most experienced players. His age does show as his speed and agility have diminished over the years, but he can provide quality MLS minutes for a team pushing for the playoffs.
When/If Väisänen returns from injury, Hedges can slot in as the perfect backup, where still the former FC Dallas captain can still be an effective leader.