Summer 2024

Walker Zimmerman leads Nashville SC into Leagues Cup final with identity in Christ

Inspired by the arrival of global superstar Lionel Messi, Inter Miami’s run to the Leagues Cup final — a new tournament played between teams from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX — has made headlines around the world. The only team left standing in Inter Miami’s way is Nashville SC.

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The teams will meet Saturday night after advancing in Tuesday night’s semifinal games. Inter Miami defeated the Philadelphia Union while Nashville beat Monterrey. Nashville captain Walker Zimmerman earned Man of the Match honors for his performance in the 2-0 win, anchoring a defense that kept a clean sheet for a second game in a row.

The two-time MLS Defender of the Year and four-time All-Star has started all but one of Nashville’s Leagues Cup games and scored the opening goal in a dramatic shootout win over Club América in the round of 16. His celebration included a nod to the child he and his wife, Sally, are expecting.

In a press conference ahead of the team’s second group-stage game, Zimmerman gave his thoughts on the tournament and how it will help grow the sport in the U.S.

“It’s fun for players as well because it’s guys that you don’t get to play every week,” he said. “You don’t really know too much about the teams. It presents a new challenge tactically, technically, to play in these games, so that’s stimulating for a player. I know I’m enjoying it so far.”

Zimmerman arrived in Nashville in 2020 and has established himself as a regular member of the U.S. men’s national team since joining the club. He started three games at last year’s World Cup as the team reached the round of 16.

The son of a pastor, Zimmerman has made his faith in God a foundational part of his career and life from an early age. He said during an appearance on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2021 that he viewed starting a house church with some friends in ninth grade as the point where he made his faith his own.

“You hear about pastor’s kids going one or two ways,” he told ESPN last year. “There was a lot of pressure, but I grew into it and made my faith my own. I feel a sense of purpose to use my platform to glorify God, to reflect that back on Him.”

When his son, Tucker, was born in June 2021, Zimmerman gained a new appreciation for the way his Heavenly Father unconditionally loves him.

“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 Sports Spectrum 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.”

Every time he takes the field, Zimmerman knows nothing he does — good or bad — is going to impact God’s love for him.

“His love for me is constant,” he said in a recent interview with Christian Broadcasting Network. “It’s always there. And my identity is in Christ. It’s not on whether I had a good game or bad games, ‘cuz you’re always fighting for your spot. He loves me for me and not based on my performance — [that] is a free thought to have as a pro athlete.”

Saturday’s Leagues Cup final kicks off from GEODIS Park in Nashville at 9 p.m. ET. Whichever team wins will capture the first trophy in club history.

Nashville resumes MLS regular-season play against Atlanta United on Aug. 26. The team is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and on track to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

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