FC Dallas midfielder Jacori Hayes works to make his mark in Dallas after being selected with the 18th pick in the MLS SuperDraft. He sat down with EIF Soccer to talk about the upcoming season, Dallas coach Oscar Pareja, and which USMNT star plays just like Jacori.
“Midfielder from Wake Forest…” Jacori Hayes was surprised. When FC Dallas came on the board with the 18th pick at the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Hayes mentally skipped to the next pick. He hadn’t met with Dallas at the MLS Combine and was expecting to go elsewhere. But Dallas selected the Baltimore product, and he met with the coaching staff and owners for the first time that night.
“It was unreal to hear [my name] called,” Jacori Hayes told EIF Soccer. “I was kind of nervous giving my speech, I didn’t really prepare as much as I wanted to the night before, but I’m thankful Dallas took the chance on me.”
Fitting in at Dallas will be no easy task, as the team comes off of a Supporters Shield winning season. They return most of their starting lineup. However, Hayes said it does not seem like his position will be shifting. “So far in training I’ve only been at center midfielder,” he said, though he’s open to trying other positions. Hayes is embracing the competition, even in preseason. Hayes acknowledged that “the way you get better is watching people that are better than you, like Kellyn [Acosta], Carlos [Cermeno], and Victor [Ulloa].” Acosta in particular is an excellent role model, a homegrown player from Dallas who has cemented his status as one of the league’s top young midfielders.
Although Jacori Hayes hasn’t been there long, he told EIF that it seems as though Dallas is hungry to build on last year’s success. “We want to win MLS Cup this year, and maybe even try to do the treble [of U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup and MLS Supporters’ Shield] that we couldn’t do this year,” Hayes said. He emphasized their ability to fight on all fronts, referencing Dallas’s dominant 4-0 home win over Arabe Unido in the Champions League quarterfinals, where Hayes was on the bench.
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Hayes also had a glowing review of Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja. Pareja is “a great guy,” Hayes says, who “tells it like it is.” “If you’re doing well, he’ll tell you; if you’re not, he gets on you.” Hayes emphasizes that he’s trying to absorb everything that Pareja throws at him, which is an excellent M.O. considering Pareja’s reputation for developing young talent. Pareja, meanwhile, said on draft day that Hayes “has a high ceiling,” which are large words for a man who has seen so much talent go through the FC Dallas setup.
Later, Jacori reflected on growing up in a talented soccer setup, with friends across the league. “Two weeks before the draft happened I was talking to my mom and going over MLS transfers, and she asked me: ‘Would you have said 5 or 10 years ago, that you would know someone on pretty much every team?’ It’s kind of surreal that many of my good friends are in the MLS. It’s cool to sit back and think you know so many different players at such a high level.”
When asked about the future, Jacori mentioned that “grad school for physics” could be in the cards at some point, but for now trying to learn from the guys above him seems to be the focus for Jacori Hayes. One area he targets for improvement: his FIFA skills. “I might be one of the worst [FIFA players on FC Dallas],” Hayes confided. “My little brother who’s 9, he beats me, so I don’t think that’s a good sign when I’m playing other people on road trips.” Luckily, Hayes says he can carve out some time in the afternoons to get his training in.
For Jacori Hayes, there is a lot of hard work on the field and the PlayStation ahead if he wants to make a name for himself at FC Dallas. However, the young midfielder seems up to the task, and we look forward to seeing what he can do in MLS. To hear which player was his best-ever teammate, and which USMNT star he compares his game to, listen to the entire podcast below!