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He’s in a league of his own. Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman has been named MLS Defender of the Year for the second consecutive season, Major League Soccer announced Wednesday as part of 2021’s year-end awards.

Zimmerman is the third player in MLS history to win the award in consecutive seasons, following in the footsteps of Carlos Bocanegra (2002-03, Chicago Fire FC) and Chad Marshall (2008-09, Columbus Crew). 

This year, the US men’s national team defender anchored a Nashville SC defense that tied for MLS’ best goals-against average (0.97), the second season in the club’s two-year MLS history where they have allowed less than a goal per game.

Zimmerman, 28, helped post a joint league-leading 13 shutouts this season. With that foundation, the Boys in Gold became just the seventh team in MLS history to go through an entire campaign at home without a single loss (8W-0L-9D at Nissan Stadium).

On the offensive end, Zimmerman scored three goals and added two assists in 25 appearances (22 starts). And he’s started the USMNT’s last five FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches, giving him with 21 international caps (with 2 goals), plus started the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, playing the first 45 minutes in the eventual MLS win against the Liga MX All-Stars.

Zimmerman originally entered the league as the No. 7 overall pick out of Furman University in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. He was previously a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2019 (with LAFC) and 2016 (with FC Dallas).

The Defender of the Year award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media and current MLS players.

Below is a breakdown of the voting results, with Zimmerman beating out Seattle Sounders center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson.

Voting Results
Players
Clubs
Media
TOTAL
Zimmerman, Walker (NSH)
22.40%
42.40%
28.10%
30.97%
Yeimar Gomez (SEA)
13.50%
15.20%
21.70%
16.80%
Robinson, Miles (ATL)
9.90%
15.20%
10.30%
11.80%
Fontas, Andreu (SKC)
3.10%
3.00%
10.80%
5.63%
Jones, DeJuan (NE)
5.70%
3.00%
3.40%
4.03%

MLS Defender of the Year Winners

  • 2021: Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC
  • 2020: Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC
  • 2019: Ike Opara – Minnesota United
  • 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
  • 2008: Chad Marshall – Columbus Crew
  • 2007: Michael Parkhurst – New England Revolution
  • 2006: Bobby Boswell – D.C. United
  • 2005: Jimmy Conrad – Kansas City Wizards
  • 2004: Robin Fraser – Columbus Crew
  • 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 – Los Angeles Galaxy
  • 1998: Lubos Kubik – Chicago Fire
  • 1997: Eddie Pope – D.C. United
  • 1996: John Doyle – San Jose Earthquakes