LOS ANGELES — From the final whistle of LAFC’s stunning first-round upset in the MLS Playoffs, defender Walker Zimmerman knew he simply couldn’t feel satisfied walking away from the Black and Gold.
“I don’t think we ever thought we were going to lose that game,” Zimmerman said in an emotional press conference after the game. “So at the end, when the whistle blew, I think what you could see on our faces just the shock of the cruelty and the reality of what our situation was.”
After several months of uncertainty, Zimmerman signed a four-year deal on Tuesday, locking down yet another one of the pinnacle members of the team’s inaugural roster. The deal — which utilized the team’s Targeted Allocation Money — will keep Zimmerman with the club through 2022.
The 25-year-old served as the veteran stronghold of a young back line, starting in all 26 matches that he was healthy to play in throughout the team’s freshman season in the MLS. He played 90 minutes in all but two regular-season games, bolstering his team through the back with explosive play.
“Walker has emerged as one of the top centerbacks in MLS, and we are incredibly pleased to agree to a new, long-term deal that will keep him in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future,” LAFC general manager John Thorrington said. “He is entering the prime years of his career, and I know I share our supporters’ excitement in looking forward to his continued contributions in Black and Gold for years to come.”
— Walker Zimmerman (@thewalkerzim) January 15, 2019
For most of the 2018 season, Zimmerman’s forte was typical of a centerback — managing the defense, spreading the ball to the wings and cleaning up attacking plays before they developed. By the end of the season, however, the defender had quickly become a venerable threat on the offensive side of the ball as well, notching three game-winning goals on the season, the highest in that statistical margin.
Zimmerman finished the season with four goals, all of which came off of corner kick set pieces, which quickly became his bread and butter on the offensive end. He scored back-to-back game winners in October against Colorado and Houston, and tallied both scores in the team’s 2-0 win over San Jose, using his lanky frame to launch over defenders and muscle in powerful shots.
“I really love the style of play that we’ve developed and the identity that Bob [Bradley] has created,” Zimmerman said. “You know, it’s always been a thing for him to create attractive football within our stadium. [With] our style of play, I believe we are one of the very best teams in the league. To come back to be a part of that and to push for our first trophy at the Club is something I am excited to be a part of.”
With his place in the future of the club fully cemented, Zimmerman is now looking to the future — and towards reclaiming what he believes the club sorely missed in its first season.
“I want to win the MLS Cup,” Zimmerman said. “Through six years I felt like I’ve been a part of some very good teams. But this past year, I thought it was the most talented group I had ever been a part of. For us… it wasn’t about being an expansion team. We wanted to win. When we came up short, I think all of us realized that there was unfinished business on the table.”