Walker Zimmerman

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Nashville SC trades for USMNT mainstay Walker Zimmerman

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LAFC has sent one of its foundational pieces to Nashville SC for an international roster spot and what could amount to $1.25 million in allocation money.

2019 MLS Best XI center back Walker Zimmerman joins his third MLS team, still just 26 and entering the considered prime for his position.

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The 26-year-old averaged 1.9 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, and 3.6 clearances per game for LAFC last season. Zimmerman has 13 goals in his 149-match MLS career.

The 6-foot-3 defender also has 12 caps with two goals for the USMNT. He began his rise as part of a monstrous CB partnership with Matt Hedges in Dallas, and was getting interest from Europe by 2018.

The move is an easy one for Nashville, who adds another MLS regular with USMNT experience to Gary Smith’s roster.  Nashville may not instantly be a playoff team, but there’s enough maturity and MLS know-how in the league to assure something better than FC Cincinnati’s maiden voyage, for instance.

LAFC boss Bob Bradley used returning center back Eddie Segura more than any other player last season, but this move surprises due to the club’s impending CONCACAF Champions League dates with Leon on Feb. 18 and 27.

USMNT primed for big 2020, revive World Cup dream

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After their training camp was moved from Qatar to Bradenton, Florida at short notice, the USMNT are getting focused on a huge 2020 as they aim to rebuild the reputation of the program.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter has already discussed their hope of setting up a training camp in Qatar before the 2022 World Cup, while the U.S. are heading to the Netherlands and reportedly Wales in March as they continue to prepare for a crucial period in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as the majority of their qualifiers are in the fall of 2020.

LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman has become a reliable presence at the heart of the USMNT defense and he knows the hard work starts now as this young U.S. group focus on 2022 World Cup qualification.

“We talked about it and we have six qualifiers at the end of this year, which is 60 percent of our qualifying process,” Zimmerman said. “It is huge. Everything is in front of us. We have all of our goals in front of us for this year and we have the Nations League in June, which is another chance for us to play in a competitive environment and try to win our first trophy as a group. Then it is all about looking ahead to qualifying. ‘How can we prepare ourselves for these first seven or eight months to head into September ready to go.'”

With a few weeks training followed by a friendly against familiar foe Costa Rica, Berhalter will be hoping to get his message across loud and clear with the MLS portion of his squad.

That’s something he struggled with last season as the USMNT failed to impress with disjointed displays and Berhalter’s philosophy of possession-based, fluid, attacking soccer only appeared in fits and starts.

The USMNT need to start 2020 well and this camp in January and their friendlies in March, with the European contingent involved for the first time, will set the tone for a massive 12 months in deciding whether or not they make a huge leap forwards as they hope to return to the World Cup.

With Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams all going through battles with injury and form so far this season, Berhalter knows this young USMNT squad needs its leaders to be fit and raring to go when September rolls around.

His time in charge will be judged on how the U.S. fare in World Cup qualifying. That’s it. That’s the job.

Robinson called into USMNT camp after Zimmerman injury

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Walker Zimmerman has withdrawn from USMNT camp after suffering an injury in LAFC’s final match of the regular season.

Atlanta United youngster Miles Robinson will take his place.

The move has implications on the USMNT and could affect the MLS Cup Playoffs, though LAFC won’t play for 17 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic excited for Cuba, Canada ]

We’ll begin with the latter, where Zimmerman is a fine passer who can help outweigh mauler Aaron Long’s weaknesses in that department.

Robinson is also a very good passer, but won’t be expected to leap into the starting lineup against Cuba and Canada for the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League matches.

Fortunately, the Cuba game is first. That allows Gregg Berhalter to test run a center back pairing that already cannot include the injured John Brooks. It seems likely Berhalter will stick with Long — who’s been quite good for the Red Bulls since his recent misadventures with the USMN —  and unite him with either Tim Ream or Matt Miazga.

As for LAFC, Bob Bradley‘s men are strong and deep but could face an El Trafico with the Galaxy in the second round. Zlatan and Co. are a much bigger handful than Minnesota United’s attackers, as the Loons midfield is what makes them tick.

Zimmerman left Sunday’s 3-1 win over Colorado in the 66th minute with a scary-looking apparent head injury, and is an integral part of the Supporters’ Shield winners. Hopefully he won’t miss any time.

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USMNT: The morning after Mexico

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Having slept, albeit briefly, on the United States men’s national team’s 3-0 home loss to Mexico in a friendly, it’s no surprise to see the Sun back up in the sky.

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The night was a comedy of disappointment, beginning with John Brooks’ groin issue costing the USMNT its best center back for Gregg Berhalter’s system.

Not the end of the program or even the manager (Get a GM)

Is it “just a friendly,” as some might ask? In most situations you’d say so, but this was Berhalter against Tata Martino’s Mexico for a second time in two months. And to lose decisively… yeesh.

Still, this isn’t the death knell for the Berhalter project, as some might say. And that’s not a glib nod toward Berhalter’s brother’s status as the federation’s next CEO.

Berhalter needs help with player identification and scouting from above. Earnie Stewart is going to hire a new general manager, who hopefully will come from a pool of more than two interviews.

That guy can hopefully help Berhalter better realize that he isn’t Herb Brooks to the rest of the world’s Soviet Union. It doesn’t take a miracle collection of “lesser” talent to make deep runs in tournament, and over-performing (incredibly well) with Columbus’ lack of spending isn’t the same as doing it against Mexico (let alone France or Brazil).

Despite Friday’s foibles (see below), Berhalter is a heck of an in-game guy and there’s reason to believe deploying this possession style against most of CONCACAF will be dynamite.

Berhalter has no answers for possession failure

In our opinion, Gregg Berhalter’s bristling response to a media ‘narrative’ stemming from his side’s miserable failure to deal with Mexico’s high press on Friday shows just how deeply he understands the lack of options available to him last night, and how poor of a decision it was to stick with the system (at least in a one-game context against your rivals. The bad night still may somehow benefit his men in terms of experience).

With Brooks absent, Berhalter opted for Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long at the back. Long is a tenacious, energetic defender… a mauler. Both Zimmerman and Brooks are no slouches in that department, but both are far better passers than Long.

And what Brooks brings that Zimmerman does not, at least as much, is a terrific ability to both dribble and ping long balls out of the back. He’s coming at you in possession, like a train (Unfortunately this train is often in the shop for repairs).

Now you throw in the unavailability of Matt Miazga, also injured and a better passer and ball mover than Long, and there’s a problem. It’s probably also worth noting that Fulham center back Tim Ream, a left back with the USMNT, was still a comparably magnificent passer during a miserable defensive season with the Cottagers last campaign.

Here are the above-mentioned four, without Long because his passing numbers aren’t in the ballpark this year and he’s not on the field for that. It’s also worth noting that two of the above players’ performance scores come from markedly better competitions than MLS.

@WhoScored

Brooks is a level above the three and there’s are arguments to be made for any of the other three alongside him, but with him out playing for possession would need to come through Zimmerman. That didn’t work on Friday, as Zimmerman had a poor day with the ball at his feet and his keeper had a worse one. Wil Trapp, playing atop the center backs could only manage short sideways passes.

The answer wasn’t in Berhalter’s bench when it came to his desire to play out of the back (Tyler Adams, a right back in his system presumably for this reason, was also out of the lineup). And he never flipped the switch and asked his midfield to battle for 50/50 balls amongst other options.

That super weird penalty, though

This one’s a small one, but glossed over by the immediate fallout of a 3-0 loss.

Late in the match Sebastian Lletget slipped Jordan Morris into the box with a delightful pass, and the Seattle man won a penalty.

Christian Pulisic handed the ball to young Josh Sargent, who would see his effort saved by Jonathan Orozco.

At first blush, our thought was it was unselfish from Pulisic to offer an international goal to his younger teammate. Some voices online claimed the Chelsea star didn’t want to take a pen in the rain, but that seems a bit much, doesn’t it?

What was your verdict?

What’s going to happen on Tuesday versus Uruguay?

Neither Brooks nor Miazga, as stated above. No Adams, Yedlin, nor Weah. Heck, no Altidore, Gonzalez, or Bradley, who know a thing or two about messing with Mexico.

Mexico is a firm favorite against the USMNT when both teams are healthy. As I wrote on Friday, Berhalter would’ve been justified to hang this one on injuries and a lack of depth. He probably didn’t want to hang the player pool out to dry (or the development system behind it), but sinking into a bunker mentality was… interesting, at best.

Now Brooks goes back to Wolfsburg, while Zack Steffen and the stretchered-off Alfredo Morales return to Fortuna Dusseldorf (who play Friday). Sean Johnson is back at NYCFC and Christian Pulisic to Chelsea.

Here’s a first look at a likely XI, as Berhalter continues to court Sergino Dest while blooding some other younger folks.

Does he call up Brad Guzan if he’s not going to play the veteran? Seems likely we could see a halftime split between the Atlanta United man and 24-year-old Jesse Gonzalez. Plus the vocal veteran could help cool any nerves on show from 22-year-old Miles Robinson.

Guzan

Dest — Robinson — Zimmerman — Ream

Yueill — Roldan

Morris — Lletget — Pomykal

Sargent

That would leave Corey Baird and Nick Lima as the only players yet to feature, and Lima would either enter for Dest or Ream, while Baird isn’t in feature player mode.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.