After starting the first eight games of the season, Zach Loyd is no longer among the First XI for FC Dallas. And that’s OK with him.
“I started in that starting right back spot because there were a lot of people coming in and out,” said Loyd, who is adjusting to a new role as a late-game defensive stopper. “It’s been different, but if we’re getting wins and that’s the role I need to be in to support the team right now, then that’s exactly what I want to do – work hard and try to get more minutes.”
Over FCD’s last three games, Loyd has found the field only off the bench in the late going. Last weekend in Seattle, he came on in the 80th minute against Seattle for Jair Benitez with FCD trailing Sounders FC by a goal and was on the field when David Ferreira scored a stunning late-game goal to tie the game.
FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman – who has been very high on Loyd from the moment he was picked fifth in this year’s SuperDraft – likes what his young rookie has done in his three appearances as a sub.
“We also threw him out to the deep end very early,” Hyndman said. “Of course, it’s every young player’s dream to be a starter. The more we saw him, the more we saw areas that needed improvement or concerns.”
The FCD manager added that Loyd’s substitute role isn’t any sort of statement about him not being ready to start. Instead, it’s more a function of the current personnel that his club has, especially in the back four.
“We don’t have a problem with him starting,” Hyndman said. “It’s just that who do you take out? He’s been a pleasant addition for us. Him and Dax [McCarty] are probably the two most fit players on the team to be able to come back and play two roles.”
For much of the season, Loyd has been learning all he can from starting right back Heath Pearce, a regular with the US National Team as well as his other veteran teammates.
“Heath and a lot of the other guys have definitely been helping me,” Loyd said. “Coming in as a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect from the older guys. They will take me aside after games to give me pointers on things that you don’t usually pick up on as a rookie. I plan to put those in my mind and start using them on the field.”
And Pearce clearly likes what he has seen from his rookie teammate thus far. He says he routinely offers little suggestions to Loyd to help him be a better fullback, but is careful not to overload the North Carolina alumn.
Hyndman also feels the experience of playing behind a veteran like Pearce has paid huge dividends for his young right back.
“We were able to bring him back at the perfect time when Heath came back because he didn’t make it on the World Cup team,” the coach said. “We were able to get Heath back and were able to mentor and work with Zach a little bit more. So now when he goes on the field, he has a specific understanding of his role.