Zach Loyd and Casey Nogueira: The Couple That Plays, Although Not (Always) Together

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here .

This love story started like so many others: with a clueless rascal who was wily enough to ask the smart, cute coed for help in sophomore English.

But this was different, too. This was Zach Loyd and Casey Nogueira, two of the nation's best soccer players playing at North Carolina, the best soccer school in history. They both had pro dreams and pro expectations. Loyd would go on to become a stalwart defender for FC Dallas. Nogueira would play in Women's Professional Soccer. With any luck, there'd be national team appearances. World Cups, maybe.

Their relationship had a few rough patches in college -- Nogueira, who'd recently found Jesus, had to deal with Loyd's frat lifestyle, and Loyd soon had a newborn. They both left school a semester early in December 2009 to pursue their careers. The following January, FC Dallas picked Loyd fifth. An hour later, Nogueira was drafted eighth to the Los Angeles Sol.

"It was tough," Nogueira says. "I got drafted to L.A., but the league folded." She moved to Chicago to play for a year, then bounced to New Jersey. "It got pretty old." Women's Professional Soccer folded for good in January 2012. Suddenly, for Nogueira, there were more job prospects abroad than at home. So she made a choice -- "I said, 'I'm out'" -- and moved to Dallas.

"When she moved, I knew she was making a commitment to the relationship, and kind of giving up her career," Loyd says. "She was willing to give up her dream." He planned to reciprocate that commitment. So in February 2012, on her birthday, he took her to a country bar. "I was kind of expecting a present, but I didn't get one," Nogueira says. "I was kind of upset."

They went two-stepping instead. While the couple was out, Zach's roommates lit candles and set pictures up around the house, snapshots from the couple's time together. When they got back to the house, their pet bulldog was dressed up in a wind suit and waiting expectantly. An engagement ring was tied to its back.

They got married last October. Four months after that, the new National Women's Soccer League had its inaugural draft. Nogueira was retired. FC Kansas City picked her anyway. She wasn't interested. "I decided I was going to just be married for a bit," Nogueira says. But when she called the owners to see why they wasted a pick on her, they made her an offer: Fly in when FC Dallas is on the road. When they're home in Frisco, stay home. She accepted, and so here they are, (almost) exactly as they've long wanted to be: playing soccer, and together.

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