Nashville SC USMNT

Nashville SC officially signs Walker Zimmerman

As reported by the always-excellent Paul Tenorio this morning, Nashville SC has traded for LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman.

“Walker Zimmerman is a player who we had our sights on when we first started to assemble this group, and we are very excited to add his on and off field abilities and leadership to our roster,” said Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs. “He has proven success at the domestic and national team levels and fits the mold of the kind of player and person that our club represents.” 

Before getting into the #analysis, the financial terms (from team release):

Acquired from LAFC in exchanged for $600,000 in 2020 General Allocation Money (GAM), $350,000 in 2021 GAM and a 2020 international roster spot. LAFC will receive an additional $150,000 in GAM in both 2020 and 2021, if Walker meets certain performance-based metrics. 

Nashville adds him to a centerback position group that already includes five players: Jalil Anibaba, Dave Romney, Ken Tribbett, Jack Maher, and Miguel Nazarit (in addition to others who are positionally flexible).

The price is steep, but, uh, dude was on the MLS Best XI just last year, and is acquired for a comparable price to another elite centerback’s move last year, with Sporting Kansas City netting $900k in allocation money (plus performance incentives) in dealing Ike Opara to Minnesota United.

Zimmerman is 26 – turning 27 early in the season – so right in the prime age for a central defender, even with a handful more years before any expected age-related decline. He’s also like this on the field:

A pretty impressive player!

Drafted as a Generation Adidas played out of Furman University in the 2013 SuperDraft (No. 7 overall), Zimmerman played his first five professional seasons in Dallas. He cooled his heels a bit for his first three years (23 appearances across them) before emerging as a starter for FCD in year four. He was acquired by trade for LAFC’s expansion year. He was part of the MLS-best defense in Exposition Park (yes, I had to google it, but to me, it is a very cool neighborhood name) this past season – and while out-possessing opponents was a massive part of that defensive success, LAFC managed to be twice as far from the mean as No. 2 RSL in xG terms (in strict “goals allowed” terms, DC United was pretty close). He was a lynchpin for that.

In his four years as a first-choice player, Zimmerman has played 8792 minutes (nearly 2200 per year). In his career to date, he has an impressive-for-the-position 12 goals, and a solid three assists. He’s familiar to US Men’s National Team fans too, accumulating 12 caps and two goals for the Red, White, and Blue.

Known for being excellent in the air – whether on offensive or defensive set pieces, or simply clearing away crosses – and a plus-player with the ball at his feet, he checks both the “this is a classic Gary Smith centerback” and the “he fits the style of play Gary Smith has put forward for the MLS side” boxes. He was 10th among MLS centerbacks in Expected Passing and 26th in xG+xA last season, both per American Soccer Analysis. (The scoring marks, obviously, are affected by the fact that the centerbacks didn’t need to do a whole lot of direct scoring or assisting for an LAFC team that had Carlos Vela and several other massive pieces up front – he was third at the position in xGChain, which accounts for actions deeper on the pitch).

He made $600,000 from LAFC last year, and should be locked into a contract that sees normal year-over-year raises, rather than breaking the bank on both acquisition and salary costs.

The Atlanta-area native brings a little Southeastern flavor to a team based in the region, and of course his level of play indicates that he’s almost certainly a day-one starter for the Boys in Gold. Depending on his success in Nashville, he could also be a moveable asset down the road. New York Red Bulls have turned down $5 million offers for CB Aaron Long (demanding close to $15 million for his services), a player who’s a year older than Zimmerman with similar amounts of MLS success – and a fairly similar style of play.

This is a massive add for Nashville in multiple regards, and simply staying healthy should be enough for Zimmerman to pay off the large investment made.

Walker Zimmerman photo courtesy Nashville SC

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