The MLS offseason is officially here, and with that comes the first trade in Los Angeles Football Club’s history. LAFC announced on Sunday they have acquired defender Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas in a trade, in exchange for $250,000 in General Allocation Money and $250,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. LAFC also sends the No. 1 Allocation Ranking to Dallas and receives the No. 11 spot.
“There is something special about being a part of this project from season one,” Zimmerman said in a team statement on the trade. “I look forward to helping create a winning culture at LAFC and setting high expectations within our locker room. I can’t wait to represent the Black and Gold and compete every day for the city of Los Angeles.”
Zimmerman, 24, is a rising star in MLS among central defenders. Drafted by FC Dallas out of Furman University in 2013, he hit a breakout campaign in 2016, alongside that year’s MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Hedges. Receiving his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-up in January of this year, he made his debut in a friendly against Jamaica and put in a strong performance.
But a knee injury seemed to set back his entire momentum earlier this season. While the injury in itself was not significant, it seemed to affect his performances for a Dallas side that sputtered badly as the season wore on, and he did not get any more looks from the USMNT.
Zimmerman is a big, rugged central defender, generally mature beyond his years on the field, and capable of locking down opposing attackers. The 6-foot-3 Georgia native is also an occasional threat on set pieces, having scored seven goals in MLS play in 89 games.
The overarching question is where Zimmerman’s true level is. In 2016, he looked like a good bet as MLS Defender of the Year material alongside his central defensive partner Hedges, and in 2017 he stunk about as badly as the rest of his team. Is he a player who can eventually take the mantle to lead a defense? Or is his place to be a sometimes very good complimentary piece, but ultimately limited to be as good or bad as the cast around him?
Time will tell, but in isolation in the moment this appears to be a very smart pickup by LAFC. Zimmerman is still young enough that he would appear to have plenty of growth in his game ahead of him, and there’s every chance he could become a key centerpiece for club and country in the seasons to come. Finding quality youngish MLS-experienced starting center backs is not easy for expansion teams (just ask Minnesota United) but it looks like LAFC are going big to be competitive in year one, and that’s a fantastic sign.
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