In January, Hayes, 22, was FCD’s top pick in the 2017 MLS Super Draft. After a strong performance during the preseason, the former Wake Forest star made his MLS debut March 11 at Sporting Kansas City, starting and playing the first half before being subbed off to begin the final half.
And until an August 5 appearance in Philadelphia, where he played the final eight minutes of a road loss to the Union, that March game had been his lone first-team appearance with FCD in 2017.
But, since June 30, Hayes has been on loan to the United Soccer League’s Tulsa Roughnecks FC, who he has played seven games for (six starts) as of August 22.
This, however, isn’t a typical loan, one where he would remain in Tulsa for the duration. Instead, this young midfielder drives the four hours between Frisco and Tulsa, returning to Frisco for training sessions during the week and driving back north for games on the weekends.
I’ve gotten used to the drive a bit now. I think I’ve made it like six times, so I’ve definitely seen small-town Oklahoma,” Hayes said. “I finally got one of those radio transmitters so I can play music through my phone. My first few trips, I was just playing CDs and that got repetitive real quick.”
During a typical week, he will train with Dallas in Frisco early in the week before on Wednesday or Thursday learning if he has made FCD’s first-team roster for its next match. If he isn’t on Dallas’ 18-man gameday roster for the weekend, the coaches will have him return to Tulsa to get more playing time.
When he does make the drive north, Hayes travels at least a day before Tulsa’s next game so he can be adequately prepared to help the Roughnecks win and make a push toward the playoffs.
But since he’s in Tulsa for only a few days at a time, he’s bounced between team-owned apartments and the occasional hotel room, paid for by the club of course. And since his stays in Tulsa are so short, he hasn’t had any time to explore the city.
However, Hayes has been especially impressed with one aspect of his time with the Roughnecks thus far.
Yeah, the support is really good. They make it a great atmosphere, lighting smoke and stuff like that when they score, so they’re very passionate and can’t complain about that at all,” Hayes said. “I haven’t explored too much of Tulsa, but I can speak for the fans. They’ve been really good.”
For much of his time on loan, he had been the only FCD player with the Roughnecks. However, that recently changed when Dallas also loaned young defender Aaron Guillen to Tulsa in early August, good company which has made those drives back and forth a bit more bearable.
Yeah, we’ve done two road trips together. Definitely makes the ride a little bit easier, having a road companion,” Hayes said. “He got some minutes up there as well. He’s in the same position I am, just trying to fight for minutes here. Hopefully the Tulsa experience helps him out as well.”
But it’s not like long drives are anything new for Hayes. In college, he’d regularly drive six hours between his Maryland hometown and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where Wake Forest is.
And when he does hit the road, he’s not someone prone to stopping frequently. No, Hayes is quite the opposite, a driver who just wants to travel from point A to point B as soon as possible.
Of course, when he does venture north to Tulsa, there is one stop he usually makes once he reaches his destination.
I go to Panda Express there often. That’s usually my first meal right off the road trips because it’s right next to the apartments that we stay in,” Hayes said.
Back on draft day just over eight months ago, neither Jacori nor any of his fellow draftees for that matter could have envisioned themselves going out on loan to a lower-division club as a rookie.
However, he doesn’t view his frequent trips to Tulsa as a bad thing, especially since they serve the bigger purpose of helping him become a better professional player by giving him the one thing every young player needs-game experience.
It’s all worth it. It’s to get games. I haven’t been fortunate enough to get games with Dallas, so being able to get full 90s with Tulsa has been huge for my game and big for my confidence,” Hayes said. “I think it’s helped me when I come back here for training sessions to compete for a roster spot for Dallas.”
One person he and FCD’s other players on loan are looking to impress is club technical director Fernando Clavijo, who feels that Guillen, Hayes and the other Dallas players who have been on loan so far in 2017 are seeing considerable benefit from these experiences.
Our players, when they go on loan, they need to play. We train here very well but when they go out, they need to play,” Clavijo said. “All these things are good for the players. We’re doing that specifically to get these guys time to play.”
Dallas’ regular season runs through the end of October while Tulsa’s fall campaign lasts through mid-October, so should this arrangement continue, Hayes could be looking at another four to six weeks of having what he calls a “day-to-day” mentality where he is with both clubs.
But again, he’s become quite adept at seeing his current situation not only with the proverbial glass half-full, but also in terms of the bigger picture, not only for his career but also for the good of his employer.
The games in Tulsa definitely help show Oscar (Pareja) and the rest of the coaching staff what I can do in the games, what I can do when the pressure’s on,” Hayes said. “Granted, it’s not MLS games or MLS competition, but it’s a game atmosphere and we’re still competing for three points on the weekend, so I feel like showing what I can do for Tulsa puts in their head what I can do for them in Dallas.”