When FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman took defender Zach Loyd fifth overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, he felt the University of North Carolina product could contribute quickly.
However, soon after beginning preseason, Loyd was slowed by a strained hamstring, missing FCD's first three preseason matches. But since the team has gone to Florida, he has seen his first preseason action, getting time in all three of the club's games there.
"Good player, a player that we thought when we drafted was someone who would find success in the league," Hyndman said. "There are some similarities to George John when we picked him up last year. As I stated in the past, he (John) would have been an outstanding player for FC Dallas (in 2009) if he had been healthy. Zach came in, pulled a hamstring straight away and just getting him back now and getting him into the mix of things. He's going to be a good one for us."
The 22-year-old Loyd started and played 58 minutes in a 4-0 win against Central Florida last Friday, then extended his run to 70 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Florida International on Sunday. Tuesday morning, he played 30 second-half minutes of a 2-0 win against New England in Orlando.
"In the first game, I thought I did very well. I was just trying to get used to playing with all the guys because I hadn't played a game in a while," Loyd said. "Right now, I am basically trying to work my way into the lineup and get familiar with how the other guys play and Schellas' system. The second game, I did all right but the field conditions were pretty bad so play was a little quick. Overall, I'm going in the right direction. There's still room for improvement but things have gone well since I've come back."
However, the most important thing is that the hamstring issues are a thing of the past.
"Yeah, I feel really strong. Day-by-day, I feel like I'm getting more confidence in it," he said. "It's just kind of slow and a gradual process to go through. I think I came back pretty quick with the great training staff that we have and with Schellas and the coaching staff supporting me."
Last week, FCD released Aziz Ansah, a defender brought in from Ghana who was originally thought to challenge incumbent Heath Pearce at right back. However, a big reason why Ansah was waived was because Hyndman felt like he had more than adequate cover at that spot in Loyd.
"It gives me a lot of confidence but there are a lot of other guys here who are also working hard at that same position," Loyd said. "Every day, I am going to come in, be ready to work and not let anything like hearsay get into my head. Each day, I will show up ready to train."
While some rookies find themselves a bit shell-shocked when they are first exposed to the professional game, that is not the case with Loyd.
"It's been about where I expected. It's getting quicker and quicker as guys are getting more fit and more touches on the ball," he said. "As we get closer to the season, hopefully we keep getting better and better and we're ready for that home opener."
Hyndman does see plenty for his young defender to adjust to as a professional.
"I think the biggest adjustment for him is going to be as always, the speed of the game, how things happen very quickly and if you're out of position, you're in trouble," the FCD coach said. "The other adjustment for him is going to be the athleticism of the league. He'll be trying to keep up with somebody who has pure speed. The final thing for him is the building of confidence in what we want a fullback to do -- also be part of our attack. We want him to have that confidence to make sure he plays the ball early and makes quality decisions. I think with time, he will be a good player for us but there are going to be some growing pains in that process."
That transition is being helped along by one of FCD's more veteran defenders.
"So far, Ugo (Ihemelu) has been talking to me a lot on the field and off the field. He's been giving me a lot of pointers," Loyd said. "He's been really helpful in my transition from college to the professional level. He has told me a lot of it is just about your confidence. He has given me tactical pointers about when I need to step in and when I need to hold. He's helping me adjust to the playing style since he's played here for a bit."