Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman was called up by USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter for the latest cycle of World Cup qualifiers, and partnered Miles Robinson in the heart of the American defense.
The Georgian native sat down with the press yesterday ahead of their upcoming qualifier in Kingston, Jamaica, and talked about his young teammates, the coaching staff and how they prepare for games.
“For the majority of the group, we’ve had a lot of experience under Gregg and this coaching staff,” the 21-times-capped defender said. “We do a lot of work behind the scenes of going through tactics, going through formations, watching position specific video and getting on the same page with other teammates that maybe you haven’t played with as much in a game.”
“But there’s a lot of training sessions where we do get to mix and match, we play next to each other and we learn different tendencies. I think that’s helped us prepare.”
“Ultimately, the mindset of everyone saying “if this is my chance, I’m getting called on, I’ll be ready to go” has been really good from the group, whether you’re starting or coming in as a sub, and everyone’s had a big impact on the games.”
At 28-years-old, Zimmerman is considered one of the old men on the team. On the current squad that will face Jamaica, five of these young men who will try to bring the team one step closer to Qatar are not even old enough to buy a beer in the United States.
“There’s certainly a lot of younger players, younger faces, but we have a lot of really talented young players who are playing in a lot of the top leagues around the world, and are succeeding and being successful at those clubs.
“Overall the talent pool that we have to draw from is really high and really talented, so it’s really fortunate for us to be able to have that kind of depth and experience. Even though we may be young, there’s a lot of experience in the group.”
Zimmerman jokes about being one of the oldest members of the team, even as he’s still in the early stages of his prime as a central defender.
“It’s kind of funny even to say “older guys” because [if] you look at the team, Zach [Steffen], DeAndre [Yedlin] and myself are the older guys, and we aren’t even 30. It’s tossed around like we’re old, but we’re still feeling great in the prime of our careers.”
“Now it’s just about getting the collective together. The talent is certainly deep at this point in time, so we got to capitalize on that and make sure we continue to put in good performances.”
As for the goalkeeper situation, Zimmerman feels comfortable playing in front of either Steffen or Turner.
“We’re so lucky we have two amazing goalkeepers,” he gushes. “Both of my experiences with them have been amazingly positive. Both are very competitive, very communication-oriented. They’re always tuned in, always trying to [communicate], whether it’s subtle comments in between plays or instruction as the games going on. Both are great at organizing the team. I have the utmost confidence with either of them to be honest.”
Having first been called up by Bruce Arena back in January 2017, the towering defender will once again go up against the team that launched his international career – Jamaica. He was also named Man of the Match.
“Regarding Jamaica,” he said, “we have faced them once at home and now we’ve got them on the road. [Michail] Antonio is a big part of what they do in the attack and [their] physical presence. They certainly have a couple attacking pieces that they are able to create.
“For us it’s about not letting the last game affect what we’re doing this game. It’s another chance for three points, so it’s a big opportunity for us to continue to climb up in the standings and put ourselves closer to the ultimate goal, which is which is qualification.”
Zimmerman is the likely player to anchor the American defense against the Reggae Boyz, but with Miles Robinson being shown a red card in the 89th minute of the Mexico game, at this time only Berhalter knows who will partner him against Jamaica tonight.