U.S. Men’s National Team center back wins honor for second consecutive season, with Nashville SC again allowing less than a goal per game in equaling league’s best defense

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NEW YORK (Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021) – Major League Soccer today announced Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman has been named the 2021 MLS Defender of the Year. Zimmerman becomes the third player in league history and the first in more than a decade to win the award in consecutive seasons. 

He helped anchor a Nashville SC defense which tied for the best in Major League Soccer with a goals against average of 0.97, the second season in the club’s two-year MLS history where it has allowed less than a goal per game.

  • Download Walker Zimmerman MLS Defender of the Year Media Assets  HERE.

The U.S. international defender was also part of a joint league-leading 13 shutouts over the course of the season, a year when the club became just the seventh in MLS history go through an entire campaign at home without a single loss (8-0-9 at Nissan Stadium).

Offensively, Zimmerman scored three goals and added two assists in 25 appearances (22 starts), the assists a single-season career-high in his ninth year in MLS, after he was the No. 7 overall pick out of Furman Univ. in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Zimmerman was previously a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2019 (while with Los Angeles Football Club) and 2016 (with FC Dallas).

On the international level, Zimmerman has been an integral part of the U.S. national team’s back line for the past few seasons. He was part of the squad which claimed the Concacaf Gold Cup this year, captaining the team for two group-stage matches, and has started each of the last five FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, now with 21 international caps (with 2 goals). Zimmerman was also a starter in 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.

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:

MLS Defender of the Year
NAME
PLAYER
CLUB
MEDIA
TOTAL
Walker Zimmerman (NSH)
22.40%
42.40%
28.10%
30.97%
Yeimar Gomez (SEA)
13.50%
15.20%
21.70%
16.80%
Miles Robinson (ATL)
9.90%
15.20%
10.30%
11.80%
Andreu Fontas (KC)
3.10%
3.00%
10.80%
5.63%
DeJuan Jones (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 FC
2018: Aaron Long – New York Red Bulls
2017: Ike Opara – Sporting Kansas City
2016: Matt Hedges – FC Dallas
2015: Laurent Ciman – Montréal 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