Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman joined an elite group Wednesday, becoming just the third player to win MLS Defender of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Only Carlos Bocanegra and Chad Marshall had done so previously.
He was informed of the honor by team owner John Ingram with his teammates in attendance.
“Certainly, when you have a good team, good things like this can happen,” the 28-year-old said. “That’s the only way it’s possible … This is truly not even just the guys who play but the guys who push each other every day in training. That’s what makes us better as players, so thanks to you guys. This is really special.”
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) December 1, 2021
Zimmerman anchored one of the best defenses in MLS this season as Nashville tied for the league lead in fewest goals conceded (33) and shutouts (13). He also contributed three goals and two assists in 25 regular-season appearances.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 1, 2021
The team went undefeated at home and advanced to the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. A 3-1 victory over Orlando City in the first round of the MLS playoffs set up a meeting with the Philadelphia Union in the conference semifinals, which Nashville lost in penalties this past Sunday.
Zimmerman took to Instagram after the heartbreaking defeat to express his gratitude for completing his ninth season as a professional:
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Prior to the end of the season, Zimmerman joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast to discuss his role with Nashville FC, playing for an audience of One, growing up the son of a pastor, becoming a new dad, and what it means to represent his country on the U.S. men’s national team. He said faith and church were part of his life from the very beginning.
“From a very early age, I think I had a very strong understanding of not only having morals and what it’s like to love other people, but also it created a foundation for me spiritually, where I think my faith has played a huge role in kind of my development over the years,” he said on the podcast.
Zimmerman views his freshman year of high school — when he started a house church with some friends after seeing his brothers do something similar — as the point when he began to take personal ownership of his faith. Drafted by FC Dallas in 2013, he led a small group at a local church all five years he was with the organization.
A trade sent him from Dallas to LAFC prior to the team’s season inaugural season in 2018. Two years later, Zimmerman found himself in Nashville on another expansion team following the second trade of his career.
Also an established member of the U.S. men’s national team, Zimmerman has represented his country 22 times and he started both of the team’s World Cup qualifiers in November.
He and his wife, Sally, have embraced their new hometown and welcomed their first child, Tucker, in June. Becoming a father has provided Zimmerman with a new appreciation for the love God showed through Jesus’ death on the cross.
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“Really, it’s about finding the patience and learning about how sacrificial God’s love is for us through my love for my son,” Zimmerman said on the podcast. “It really kind of changes the picture for me and helps you realize actually what a great sacrifice Jesus was on the cross when you think about God giving His only Son for us.”
— SS PODCAST: MLS All-Star Walker Zimmerman on parenting, faith, representing the U.S.
— Walker Zimmerman leads Nashville into playoffs, grateful for ‘how sacrificial God’s love is’
— Walker Zimmerman leans on faith as he leads Nashville SC, USMNT
— Rising 17-year-old Cade Cowell praising God as he prepares for first All-Star Game
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