Zimmerman photo from deep in the file. Tim Sullivan/Club and Country
I was holding off on writing Not Gold while waiting for the update, and then it came after I’d already gone to bed… Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman will return to Nashville, leaving USMNT camp with an injury suffered in the Americans’ group-stage victory against Canada.
New England’s Henry Kessler is his like-for-like replacement, a big athletic centerback (though obviously far less experienced than the reigning MLS Defender of the Year). Zimmerman’s distribution has been a pleasant surprise for the USMNT during this tournament – it’s rarely been a liability for Nashville, but he hasn’t displayed it as a strength in Gold typically – and ASA‘s Goals Added indicates that Kessler may be a fairly significant downgrade (-0.03 G+ passing so far in 2021 in comparison to Zimmerman’s +0.13).
Zimmerman went down in a heap during a ninth-minute challenge against Canadian winger Richie Laryea that left both players banged up. The Nashville SC defender was replaced in the lineup shortly thereafter.
Zimmerman landed with his stomach on the ball and his right thigh on Laryea’s leg. Neither probably felt great!
A hamstring strain, however, is an insignificant injury compared to some of the worst-case scenarios in that tangle. While it will see him miss the remainder of the tournament, it also means less time traveling on a plane (which is notorious for slowing the rates of recovery for muscle injuries) after he returns to Nashville from the MNT’s trip to Arlington, Texas – assuming the Americans can get through Jamaica on Sunday.
The USMNT’s hope for a trip to at least the tournament final would have seen Zimmerman playing a game on the West Coast (Las Vegas) Aug. 1, which would likely have also ruled him out of the Nashville SC trip to New England three days later – travel back to Nashville the second, team travel to New England the third, no training or recovery time for Zimmerman. Even if he’s unable to play for Nashville SC by the time the Gold Cup ends, a quick healing of that hamstring could at least save the Boys in Gold one game without him. If he heals even faster, it’s not out of the question that he’s available for that Aug. 1 trip to Toronto.
Without Zimmerman, first for the birth of his son, Tucker, and then for the Gold Cup, Nashville has had some solid results… but major struggles defending set pieces. Whenever Gary Smith has him back and available, Nashville is better for it.