Last Monday was like any other during preseason for Walker Zimmerman.
The center back was settled in with his wife, Sally, to catch up on the latest reality TV. A viewing of The Bachelor was interrupted by a text from LAFC general manager John Thorrington.
“He said, ‘Hey are you free to talk?’” Zimmerman recounted. “I ended up calling him right as The Bachelor was starting. He started off saying, ‘Hey, this is going to be really tough to hear.’ So I immediately snapped my fingers at my wife and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m getting traded.’ He said, ‘Nashville came in with an offer, and we’re going to be trading you there.’”
Sally, naturally, was on the shocked side.
“Pretty wide-eyed and her jaw dropped to the floor; couldn’t believe it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s always hard, right? Any time you get traded without having any inclination that it could happen. Definitely a surprise, but once that shock factor settled in, the next 48 hours or so after that conversation, we started to transition in her mind.
“Thankfully for me, I have a team now, so I have immediate friends. For my wife, making sure she gets plugged in: luckily there’s a great group of significant others from this team, and then, thankfully, I actually know some people from the Nashville area from the college days and some family.”
Nashville is Zimmerman's second go-round with an MLS expansion team. FC Dallas, who drafted him out of Furman University in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, traded Zimmerman to LAFC prior to that club’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer.
Now, he’ll use that experience, along with the experience of playing for the US men’s national team, to help Nashville SC find success in year one. With a record transfer fee for a defender — up to $1.25 million in allocation money, surpassing the $1 million dished out by Minnesota United for Ike Opara last offseason — the expectations are going to be high.
“There’s a lot of natural human emotions that you’re going to feel with that,” he explained. “There’s sadness for sure, because it’s not like we were unhappy or ungrateful or there was turmoil [at LAFC] or anything. We were all-in, fully invested there, same way I’m going to be here. You’re leaving a lot of friends, teammates, neighbors, and a lot of people that you really care about and were investing in. That’s the hard part.
“Thankfully, I have a good bit of guys who I actually knew beforehand. I’ve known Dax [McCarty], I’m good friends with [Daniel] Lovitz from the national team. I knew Eric Miller from all the youth teams, and Dave Romney a little bit from the MLSPA. So immediately coming in, I was able to talk to all of those guys even before I met with the team.”
When he finally hits the pitch, it will be time to shift focus from the off-field aspects of a shock trade, and begin working toward a successful expansion season for Nashville SC.