By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Mar 6, 2023) US Soccer Players – He was the big man in the center of the defense for the United States at the recent World Cup. When he isn’t clearing away balls or intimidating strikers for the USMNT, center back Walker Zimmerman does all that each week for Nashville SC. Zimmerman hasn’t missed a step with Nashville, already getting off to a strong start in 2023.
Nashville SC is coming off a win against New York City FC top open the season and a hard-fought scoreless draw this past Saturday on the road against the New York Red Bulls. Zimmerman, who captains the team, has been in the middle of much of the action. He scored a goal against NYCFC to open the season and hopes to add another Defender of the Year award, which he previously won in 2020 and 2021.
The 29-year-old Georgia native, who has 39 senior caps and three goals, made his MLS debut a decade ago with FC Dallas after being picked in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft seventh overall. Following a spate of injuries, Zimmerman broke through and became a regular in the starting lineup during the 2016 season. That season he helped FC Dallas win the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup.
In 2018, he was later traded to then-expansion side Los Angeles FC, helping them win the Supporters’ Shield a year later. In 2020, Zimmerman was traded to Nashville SC, also an expansion side starting that season. Nashville announced last season that Zimmerman had been signed to a Designated Player contract through 2025, only the fourth US-born defender to ever get a DP deal.
We caught up with Zimmerman after the game at Red Bull Arena, where he talked about Nashville’s strong start, the new playoff format and what his time in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup means for him now.
Nashville has four points from two games, grabbing points from both New York teams. I know it’s early, but how do you assess the start of the season for you guys?
It’s good. Obviously, you go into every game wanting three points. It was a tense game (against the Red Bulls) and a scrappy game. We ultimately come out with a point, which I think is pretty fair.
MLS is long and unpredictable. Have you taken a good look at the new playoff format and what do you think?
We discussed it early on. It’s an interesting situation to be in and that’s kind of the way we are operating here. Every time we start a season we look to see how many points we need to make the playoffs. It’s a change to get everyone a home playoff game. That will be good for fan bases to get to enjoy that.
MLS Season Pass on Apple TV has been fun to watch. Have you watched and what do you think?
It’s great. I love the whip-around. After we got home early from our first game last week to be able to tune in and watch the goals as they were happening live. It was really unique and the quality of the picture is awesome. I really enjoyed it.
There seems to be a lot of excitement around MLS this season. Do you think that’s World Cup spillover?
I hope so. I hope that we’re constantly growing the sport. The World Cup is obviously the biggest sporting event in the world and so to gain more American viewers will probably get them interested in our domestic league. We need to create more excitement and raise the level of this league and keep trying to get better players and increase the performance of the product. Hopefully, that will gain use more fans leading into the World Cup in 2026.
The World Cup ended just three months ago. What’s your assessment of your time in Qatar with the National Team and what does that mean for you now?
It seems like it flew by. With a snap of the fingers, it’s something you dream about your whole life and now it’s gone. I’m trying to stay highly motivated for the present with the club team hoping for success with Nashville. I’m trying to take it one game at a time and not get into a World Cup slump, where you get to the pinnacle of your sport and all of a sudden you get satisfied and content. Yes, appreciate what happened, but also focus on what’s next.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Red Bulls defender John Tolkin on his club, the rest of the East, and debuting for the USMNT
- MLS in 2023: LAFC and Philadelphia, Apple TV, the Leagues Cup, and St Louis
- What the January window could mean for the 2022-23 Champions League
- Five MLS player moves worth your attention
Photo by Nashville SC