Nashville SC

Walker Zimmerman extends contract with Nashville SC

With a contract that was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2022 season (Zimmerman signed a four-year deal with MLS prior to the 2019 season with LAFC), Walker Zimmerman’s time with Nashville SC had an end date in sight.

Now, that end date is much farther off for the 27-year old. Today, he extended his time in Nashville SC through 2023 with an option for the following season. From club release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 10, 2020) –Nashville Soccer Club announced today that the club has come to terms on a contract extension with U.S. Men’s National Team International Walker Zimmerman through 2023. Nashville will be using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to sign Zimmerman. The agreement, which also features an extension option for the 2024 season, further solidifies the center back as a long-term piece of the club’s future in Major League Soccer.

“I couldn’t be more excited to represent Nashville SC, on and off the pitch, for the next few years,” commented Zimmerman. “Nashville has shown that it embraces their sports teams with an unrivaled passion. We witnessed that firsthand at our inaugural game in February. My hope is to bring trophies to the city, and our fans, for years to come. Let’s ride, Smashville!”

Mike Jacobs, Nashville SC General Manager, said: “We acquired Walker knowing that he is one of, if not the top, centerback in Major League Soccer and the U.S. Men’s National Team pool. He is an important piece of our club’s present and future, and we wanted to commit ourselves to him to demonstrate that.”

Gary Smith, Nashville SC Head Coach, added: “I’m very happy to have Walker committed to our club for the next few years. His leadership and playing qualities will be a rock of a foundation as we build the team out into 2021 and beyond.”

Nashville SC acquired Zimmerman from the Los Angeles Football Club on Feb. 11, 2020 in a record-breaking deal right before the club’s inaugural MLS season. The defender immediately made his impact felt in Music City by scoring the first club’s goal in MLS history in front of a state record-breaking crowd for a soccer match of 59,069 on Feb. 29 against Atlanta United FC.

The Lawrenceville, Ga. native has been one of the premier defenders in MLS since entering the league in 2013. In his MLS career, Zimmerman has made 142 regular season appearances, 165 across all competitions, anchoring defenses to 42 shutouts and leading two separate clubs to MLS Supporter Shield trophies, in 2016 with FC Dallas and in 2019 with LAFC. Despite playing on the backline, Zimmerman has been a prolific goal contributor with 15 tallies and five assists.

At the international level, the American continues to gain significant playing time for the U.S. Men’s National Team with 12 caps (11 as a starter) since debuting in 2017 in a 1-0 victory against Jamaica.

Nashville will square off against FC Dallas in a two-match series in Frisco, Texas as part of the league’s continuation of regular season play plan. Following this series, the Boys in Gold will face Southeastern regional foes Atlanta United FC, Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC as part of a six-match schedule through Sept. 12. The remainder of the schedule will be announced by early September.

In addition to his play with MLS clubs FC Dallas, LAFC, and now NSC, Zimmerman has appeared 12 times for the US Men’s National Team, all since 2017. Fellow defender Dan Lovitz and midfielder Dax McCarty are the only other US-capped members of the team – though several others have US Youth International caps or are senior internationals for their home countries. He’s also scored a pair of goals in the red, white, and blue. That’s a level of performance and notoriety that NSC didn’t want to give up any time soon.

Zimmerman’s quality within MLS is tougher to quantify, given the nature of the centerback position. However, he is the proud owner of the lone goal in the club’s MLS history so far. His presence (and later, absence) on his previous clubs has also coincided with varying levels of team defensive performance.

Team defensive performances
Year Zimmerman Minutes xGA GA
FC Dallas
2012 0 N/A 1.38
2013 411 1.34 1.53
2014 770 1.26 1.32
2015 1084 1.21 1.15
2016 2700 1.03 1.18
2017 1602 1.14 48
2018 0 1.33 1.29
LAFC
2018 2321 1.40 1.53
2019 2369 1.12 1.00
2020 0 1.45 1.57
Expected goal and goals adjusted per-game. 2020 season includes just 7 games played to-date for LAFC (including MLS is Back knockout games).

There’s plenty of noise in the data, of course. It does look as though teams have a dropoff when Zimmerman departs (and in the case of Dallas, the team defensive performance improved progressively the more time he got as he developed into an every-match pro).

Given that he contributed 12 MLS goals during those seven years (in addition to the one he’s scored with Nashville SC), it does indeed appear that the hype is justified. Nashville SC certainly believed that to be the case when trading $950 in total General Allocation Money and a 2020 international roster spot for him. Of course, this extension also give Nashville the opportunity to sell him on for a transfer fee in the future, if Europe is in his dreams. While he’s hasn’t mentioned it specifically since arriving in Nashville, most young Americans dream of one day playing overseas to compete at the highest level.

While Nashville SC’s roster has a mix of young (designated player Randall Leal, draft picks Alistair Johnston and Jack Maher) and old (five players on the high side of 30, all but one of whom – injured right back Brayan Beckeles – have contributed this year), a middle-aged – in soccer terms, at least – core group can be formed around Zimmerman. The 27-year old is just approaching prime age at the CB position. He’ll spend those prime years in Nashville.

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