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Nashville Soccer Club's Walker Zimmerman Named MLS Defender of the Year for the Second Consecutive Season

Walker 2021 Defender of the Year - 1920

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 1, 2021) – Nashville Soccer Club in conjunction with Major League Soccer, have announced that Nashville SC defender and 2021 MLS All-Star Walker Zimmerman has been named the 2021 MLS Defender of the Year.  

“Walker’s contributions and leadership to our team has helped transform a second-year expansion club into one of the elite defenses in Major League Soccer, and no one is more deserving of this distinguished honor. We are so proud of him.” – Nashville SC General Manager Mike Jacobs.  

“I’m extremely grateful to be named this year’s MLS Defender of the Year. Individual accolades aren’t possible without the quality of teammates I have here in Nashville and the success we’ve had collectively as a group throughout our entire roster. It’s a special moment for me and an honor I’ll cherish forever. Thankful to everyone who voted from the players, the executives and the media, and to the fans in Nashville for their constant support.” – Walker Zimmerman

Zimmerman joins 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, Chad Marshall while with the Columbus Crew won the award in 2008 and 2009. 

With his second MLS Defender of the Year honor, Zimmerman becomes just the fifth player in MLS history to win the award multiple times alongside Marshall, Carlos Bocanegra, Ike Opara and Robin Fraser.  

This season, Zimmerman anchored a Nashville SC backline to new heights, as Nashville conceded the fewest goals on the road than any other team in MLS allowing just 15 goals away from Music City in the 2021 regular season. 

Zimmerman and the Nashville SC 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.  

Anchored by the United States Men’s National Team standout Zimmerman, Nashville SC had the best expected goals against (xGA) both in defensive transition (10.92 xGA) and in defensive organization (17.75 xGA).

With Zimmerman in the lineup, Nashville lost just three regular season matches all year in a season that saw the Boys in Gold clinch the third seed in the Eastern Conference while reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season, becoming 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.  

Zimmerman anchored Nashville SC to a goals-against average of 0.96 in his appearances in the 2021 regular season. Zimmerman ranked first among qualified Nashville SC outfield players in duel percentage at 65% and led Nashville SC players in headed duel percentage with 73.2%. Zimmerman set a new career-high in assists this season, and led Nashville SC defenders in goals. 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. 

In his most recent call-up Zimmerman started and played the full 90 minutes against Mexico and anchored the United States backline to a shutout in another ‘Dos A Cero’ victory for the States on Nov. 12. Zimmerman served as the captain during the first round of the 2021 Gold Cup for the United States and wore the armband once again during WCQ matches.

The award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media, and current MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results:

Defender of the Year
Walker Zimmerman (NSH)
Yeimar Gomez (SEA)
Miles Robinson (ATL)
Andreu Fontas (KC)
DeJuan Jones (NE)

MLS Defender of the Year Winners:

2021: Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC

2020: Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC

2019: Ike Opara – Minnesota United FC

2018: Aaron Long – New York Red Bulls

2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City

2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas 

2015: Laurent Ciman – Montreal Impact

2014: Chad Marshall – Seattle Sounders FC

2013: Jose Goncalves – New England Revolution

2012: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City

2011: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy

2010: Jamison Olave – Real Salt Lake

2009: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew SC

2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew SC

2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution

2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United

2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards

2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew SC

2003: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire

2002: Carlos Bocanegra – Chicago Fire

2001: Jeff Agoos – San Jose Earthquakes

2000: Peter Vermes – Kansas City Wizards

1999: Robin Fraser – LA Galaxy

1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire 

1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United 

1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes