This was exactly how Schellas Hyndman envisioned things. When the FC Dallas head coach drafted North Carolina defender Zach Loyd fifth overall in mid-January’s MLS Super Draft, Hyndman saw Loyd earning a starting spot in short order. However, even the FCD rookie was a bit surprised his debut came in week two against Columbus.
Loyd started at right back for FCD in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Black and Gold before leaving with about 15 minutes left, as Hyndman wanted a bit more offense on the field.
“I officially found out after practice on Thursday. He (Hyndman) wanted me to start getting mentally prepared and ready for the match,” the FCD rookie said. “It came as a little bit of a surprise that they were going to give me an opportunity this early in the season. I was really thankful they had the confidence in me to put me in. At game time, I was really nervous and excited. After the first few minutes, you get back into it like its practice. My teammates were helping me and talking me up all the way to game time. I’m thankful for them being with me and giving me confidence leading up to the game.”
One thing Loyd didn’t do was tell his family right away. His parents and two-year-old son were making the drive down from Oklahoma like they plan to do for every FCD home game.
“I actually waited until they came down here (to tell them),” he admitted. “I was keeping it to myself. I didn’t want too many people finding out. I didn’t want people calling me. I wanted to just mentally get ready for the game. I told them before the game, before I left for here (Pizza Hut Park). They were happy. I didn’t want them telling someone and there being a chain reaction. I just wanted to be able to focus on the game.”
[inline_node:8333]And when asked how much it meant to have his family present for his professional debut, Loyd was at a bit of a loss for words.
“It’s kind of hard to describe because they’ve done so much for me. Growing up, they would take me to practice 45 minutes away every day,” he said. “With all the support they gave me, it was a really special moment.”
Hyndman offered a glowing review of Loyd’s first start.
“I made a decision after watching the College Cup with Chapel Hill and said I didn’t think this guy was going to be around for our second pick. I knew if I wanted him, I would have to put my first pick into him,” the FCD coach said. “I think he’s a player that can contribute to this team like a George John did (in 2009 as a rookie). Offensively, he had a couple of passes that missed his target. We’ve just got to make sure we play balls to midfielders’ feet. That gives them a chance to protect and a chance to get fouled. But if we miss the player, then it’s a counterattack. He’s a quick learner. I think he did very well for himself.”
The former Tar Heel standout assessed his debut as follows.
“I thought I did pretty well. I matched up well with the speed of Robbie Rogers,” Loyd said. “I thought defensively, I was pretty strong on one-v-ones. They had a hard time getting around me. Offensively, I had some bad turnovers. I would try to spray balls in the middle and lose them in the defensive third, which is a really dangerous spot. I need to get sharper on offense and just be aware of my surroundings when I’m going forward. I think that’s my next step.”
While he has always been confident that he would start at some point as a rookie, he was still taken aback when his opportunity came so early.
“I really didn’t know. My whole thought process is that I had to train hard every day, just come in with that mentality and wait for the coaching staff to give me that opportunity,” Loyd said. “When it came, I was ready for it. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to do that and also my teammates. They’re always there to back me up no matter what happens.”