NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 2, 2021) – Nashville Soccer Club in conjunction with Major League Soccer, have announced the 2021 MLS Best XI, which features the 2021 MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman and 2021 MLS MVP Finalist Hany Mukhtar.
The pairing of Mukhtar and Zimmerman led Nashville SC to historic heights in the club’s second season in MLS after clinching the third seed in the Eastern Conference and reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Nashville SC became the first modern expansion club to win a playoff round in each of its first two seasons of existence, while becoming only the seventh team in league history to go a full season unbeaten at home much in part to the play of Mukhtar and Zimmerman.
This marks Mukhtar’s first MLS Best XI appearance. The midfielder was electrifying in his second MLS season in Nashville, scoring 16 regular season goals. Mukhtar registered 28 goals + assists, the most of any player in MLS this regular season. Mukhtar also secured the fastest hat trick in MLS history with three goals in the span of six minutes on July 17 against Chicago Fire FC.
In the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Mukhtar registered the first brace in Nashville SC’s MLS post-season history in the club’s 3-1 First Round win over Orlando City SC on Nov. 23. Mukhtar finished the playoffs with three goals, the most of any player through the first two rounds.
The MVP finalist was selected to the MLS Team of the Week seven times this season and was selected as the MLS Player of the Week twice. Mukhtar finished the season strong scoring 12 goals and registering eight assists in his final 17 overall matches of the season. Mukhtar finished the regular season tied for fifth in MLS in goals, tied for fourth in assists with 12, tied for second in shots on target with 43 and finished fifth in shots with 94.
For Zimmerman, the center back has now earned three consecutive MLS Best XI selections, the most selections of any player among this group of players.
Zimmerman’s back-to-back-to-back selections marks the first time a defender has been selected three times in a row since Jimmy Conrad (2004-06 with Kansas City). Only three defenders in the league’s history have accomplished that mark of three straight selections (Zimmerman, Conrad and Robin Fraser 1998-2000 with LA Galaxy).
Zimmerman becomes the sixth defender in MLS history to be named MLS Best XI three or more times. Zimmerman joins Robin Fraser (5), Chad Marshall (4), Omar Gonzalez (4), Eddie Pope (4) and Jeff Agoos (3).
Yesterday it was announced that Walker Zimmerman was named as the 2021 MLS Defender of the Year, marking back-to-back seasons Zimmerman has brought home the award. Zimmerman joined an exclusive list becoming just the third player in MLS history to win the award in back-to-back seasons and the first in over a decade.
This season, Zimmerman anchored a Nashville SC backline that conceded fewer goals on the road than any other team in MLS allowing just 15 road goals. The Nashville defense conceded just 33 goals all season, tied for the fewest in MLS alongside the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders. Zimmerman was part of a Nashville SC defense that was tied for the league lead in shutouts with 13.
Zimmerman anchored Nashville SC to a goals-against average of 0.96 in his appearances in the 2021 regular season. Zimmerman was also selected to MLS Team of the Week four times this season.
Zimmerman was a mainstay not only at the club level, but for the United States Men’s National Team as well. In this calendar year alone, Zimmerman made eight appearances for the USMNT and has 21 overall caps for the United States.
2021 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders: Yeimar Gómez (Seattle Sounders FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC), João Paulo (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Valentín Castellanos (New York City FC), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders FC)