We’re continuing our Nashville SC report cards with a look at center-back Walker Zimmerman.
What went right in 2020?
Nearly everything that could go right went right for Zimmerman in 2020. When Nashville SC sent LAFC a league-record $1.25 million in GAM, they made him the centerpiece of their defense. Zimmerman rewarded that trust by playing arguably his best season ever, named to the MLS Best XI for the second consecutive season and earning the MLS Defender of the Year award.
Paired with Dave Romney, Zimmerman’s defensive abilities were on display for all to see. Zimmerman consistently showed up with last minute blocks and interceptions to clean up chances before they turned into goals.
In possession, he was a counterbalance to Romney’s assured passing, often carrying the ball forward to break lines on the dribble.
Late in games when chasing a goal, Zimmerman even played as an auxiliary forward, acting as a target man in the box.
On set pieces, Zimmerman was lethal. The center-back finished third on Nashville SC with three goals, a tally that tied DC’s Donovan Pines for the most goals by a center-back in 2020.
It’s fair to say that Nashville’s expansion season would have looked completely different without Zimmerman, more-so than any other player on their roster.
What went wrong in 2020?
As with most of Nashville’s starting defenders, it’s hard to nitpick much. Being a part of one of the league’s best defenses is enough to earn a solid grade.
If we want to nitpick, though, Zimmerman had a rare moment or two where he was caught out of position. Usually this happened after he carried the ball forward and lost possession or after he pressed too aggressively to try to win the ball back, leading to Nashville conceding a goal. All said, these moments were rare, and the positives far outweighed the negatives.
What needs to improve in 2021?
A successful 2021 would look an awful lot like his first year in Nashville. Nashville’s starting back four is returning, along with goalkeeper Joe Willis. Nashville should be expected to be a top five defense once again, and that doesn’t happen without another standout year from Zimmerman.
Most memorable moment
Zimmerman scored the first goal in Nashville’s MLS history on the only night when Nissan Stadium was open to a full capacity. That goal won’t be forgotten quickly.