LEWISVILLE, Texas – Zach Loyd is nearing the end of his third year as a professional, having locked down the right back spot for FC Dallas while sitting on the fringe of Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar with the national team.
Truth be told, however, the 2012 season for the tenacious defender (above, left) has felt like three years in and of itself.
“I think we’ve seen three different seasons out of Zach this year,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman said on Wednesday night. “The first part of the season was a lot of enthusiasm … the second part of the season was some silly plays … now the third part of the season, he’s really trying to be more and more intelligent. He’s learning the game.”
Over his three-year career, Loyd has been the model of consistency for FC Dallas. Since being selected fifth overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the UNC alum has been a mainstay on the field, playing 81 games for the team, more than any other player in the last three seasons.
However, those silly plays Hyndman referred to have marred what has been an otherwise solid campaign for the Oklahoman.
A soft-spoken and deeply religious person off the field, Loyd is probably the last player you’d expect to be among the four in MLS with two red cards on the season, but that is exactly the case, with Loyd having picked up second yellows in games at Columbus and Portland.
“I never want to be that player that people think I’m dirty or coming in cheap on people,” Loyd said. “But I am an aggressive defender and I know that I mix it up with whoever I’m playing against.”
The expulsions were almost identical in nature, with Loyd picking up first-half yellow cards while being shown a second yellow on silly and somewhat soft fouls early in the second half. If anything, it was a learning experience for the 25-year-old rather than a sign of deeper issues.
“I think it’s more about being smarter [playing] with the yellow, because you never know what the referee is going to do and you shouldn’t give him the opportunity to change the game,” the FCD right back said. “[They] were the first two red cards I’ve had in my entire life. It’s unfortunate but you can’t dwell on the past.”
And Loyd hasn’t.
Putting the cards aside, he has become one of the top right backs in the league, earning a call up to Klinsmann’s preliminary roster for the previous World Cup qualifying games against Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda while starting every game for Dallas this season other than the two missed through suspension. Loyd attributes his play to finally settling on one spot rather than his previous role on the squad that saw him at multiple positions across the backline.
“Coming into this year, I talked with the coaches that I was going to be the starting right back if I could keep my position,” He said. “I wasn’t going to be center back one game, right back the next game, kind of being used as utility.”
With one year left on his rookie contract, Loyd is developing into one of the faces of the FCD franchise and looks to be in line for a new deal at the end of the season, but with the playoffs still up for grabs, it’s not at the forefront of his mind.
“I love it here. I love the club,” Loyd said when asked about signing a new deal. “I actually prayed to come to Dallas before I got drafted, so it’s been a huge blessing. … I’m just going to keep working and if the contracts come up then they come up, but I’ll worry about that at the end of the season.”