NOTE: Zach Loyd started in FC Dallas' match Friday night, marking his 150th MLS game and appearance with the club.
In sports, athletes are always looking towards the next game, and the next opponent. For Zach Loyd, the next game he plays will be a milestone – the 150th MLS game of his career – all with FC Dallas.
“[I’m] thankful to be able to get that many games under my belt,” Loyd said. “To hit that many games in six years, I’ve been blessed with good health. The organization’s been great with me and has supported me since the day I got here.”
Loyd will become just the eighth player to hit the 150-game mark in club history.
“I’m not surprised to see, despite his age – because he is still very young – putting in that many games in his career and defending this club,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “It’s good – good for him, good for the club, good for his leadership and also good for the youngsters that are looking up to him.”
At just 27 years old, Loyd’s 150th game with FC Dallas will put him in elite company, joining the likes of Jason Kreis, Bobby Rhine and Pareja in playing 150 games with the club.
FC Dallas All-Time Games Played
Jason Kreis 247
Bobby Rhine 212
Oscar Pareja 176
Richard Farrer 158
Ted Eck 156
Jorge Rodriguez 155
Jair Benitez 153
Zach Loyd 149
“It’s just humbling, if anything, to be put into a group of guys that I looked up to when I was younger and [saw] play here,” Loyd said. “It’s cool to be a part of something that I believe in and I love to be a part of.”
“That dedication and just giving that much time to your club, being involved that many years and [in] that many battles, for sure that represents a lot,” Pareja said. “[But] I know he has a long way to go still.”
“I don’t know how many guys in MLS stay with their club indefinitely,” Loyd said. “I’ve been blessed enough to stay here because when you stay somewhere for a long time, you start building relationships, you start putting roots in the community. For FC Dallas trusting in me and believing in me and keeping me here for this many years, I’m thankful.”
Fresh off his senior season at the University of North Carolina in 2009, Loyd was selected by FC Dallas fifth overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. After playing 149 MLS games over the last six seasons, he still fondly remembers game one – a 2-2 draw with Columbus on April 10, 2010 in Frisco.
“Just the build-up, and the moment finally arriving, like ‘Man, I’m actually a professional player getting in a professional game,’ it was a great moment,” Loyd said. “You’re like excited, you’re nervous, mixed emotions going into it, but once that whistle blows and you’re playing, everything kind of becomes natural [because] you’ve been doing it for so long.”
Loyd hit the ground running in his rookie season, starting and playing a full 90 minutes in his first game, and then starting 18 more games during the rest of the year, while subbing on in another five. Additionally, the Oklahoma native appeared in all four 2010 playoff matches including MLS Cup.
“First, to get the games under me as quick as I did, that is just – I’m thankful for the club to give me games that early in my career,” Loyd said. “Usually rookie year or the first few years you’re fighting to get a spot.”
Right from the start, he’s played an important role on the FC Dallas roster. In each of his first five full seasons, Loyd has played in at least 24 games – playing in a career high 32 in 2012. He’s also started all but 10 of the first 149 games that he saw action in.
“He has shown that he is very versatile,” said Pareja, who was an assistant coach with FCD for the first two seasons of Loyd’s career. “[He] has been played in different positions in his career, [and] now he’s adapted to a more consistent position as a central back, which makes him even more important to the squad and he represents that – that discipline, that responsibility . As I said, that’s important.”
Off the field, Loyd has grown over the course of his first 149 games and has taken heart to his evolving role as a veteran on the team.
“I know when I first got here, Ugo [Ihemelu] and Daniel Hernandez – they were huge for me, just kind of showing me the ropes, helping me out,” Loyd said. “Having that support from your teammates is huge. I’ve been trying to do that with the young guys because I know how big of a life source they were for me in my early years.
“It’s been a lot more about ‘How can I help everyone around me?’ ‘How can I do this?’ You know, I’ve been here long enough, what can I give to someone else that’s going to make them a better player?”
“When I came in, he was a big help,” Loyd’s now-partner at center back Matt Hedges said. “It’s not easy coming from college and things like that to get adjusted to the pro level, but I think he was a huge help.”
On the field, Loyd says he hopes to play in another 150 games with FC Dallas, and as he sets his eyes on the next stage in his career, there’s only one goal in mind.
“The next step is to win,” he said. “I’ve been here for six years. My first year here we were in the finals of the MLS Cup, last year we had the Open Cup in our fingertips and lost here to PKs to go to the finals – so I want to win something.”
“At the age that he [is], I know that is in his mind,” Pareja said. “It’s our responsibility – I mean we all have it – and a player like Zach, he should be thinking about that it’s time to get that.”
“My biggest goal is to win a MLS Cup here for this club,” Loyd said. “I don’t want to leave this club until we accomplish that – and I think we have the guys to be able to do that, so hopefully if not this year, then very soon.”