CHESTER, Pa. — On Monday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the US national team showcased a promising crop of very young European-based attackers.
And yet, the first goal in the United States’ 3-0 rout of Bolivia came off the head of an older (at least by comparison) defender who was one of only two MLS players called into camp.
“It was incredible,” Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget, and something I’m going to look forward to talking about with my kids someday.”
Alex Bono, the only other MLS player called in by Dave Sarachan, was one of six players to earn his first national-team cap and he responded with a shutout. The Toronto FC goalkeeper, though, didn’t even need to make a save, thanks in large part to the play of center backs Zimmerman and former Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who also made his first USMNT appearance.
Zimmerman — who, at 25, was one of the older players in camp this week — said he gave Palmer-Brown a pep talk about trying to stay confident before the game.
“I remember my first cap was not too long ago,” the LAFC center back said. “Really the ultimate takeaway I had is just to trust in your abilities and what got you to this point and don’t try to do anything out of your comfort zone. I thought he had a great game. I thought we worked well together. We were very composed.
Zimmerman celebrates his goal | USA Today Sports Images
“I know they didn’t create too many chances, but I think that’s also a testament to our partnership and the whole backline keeping organized. I’m really proud of him and happy he got his first cap.”
There’s a good chance Bono and Zimmerman will return to their MLS clubs when the US departs for their next two friendlies in Ireland and France, as Sarachan said he’s planning to make some roster changes.
But the US interim head coach was pleased with how fullbacks Eric Lichaj and Antonee Robinson meshed with the two center backs on a backline that he noted didn’t have many vocal guys, save for Zimmerman.
“I thought their organization was good,” Sarachan said. “I thought their movement was relatively good. I thought in the second half there were a few moments they got a little sloppy, but we made so many changes that didn’t help. But generally speaking, I thought our backline did a good job and I liked Antonee’s moments of getting forward as well.”
Zimmerman, of course, knows the other young center backs coming through the system — including Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers, the only two players on Monday’s gameday roster who didn’t get into the game — have plenty of potential, too.
But he also knows that scoring a goal, showing off his set piece skills (which he called one of his biggest strengths) and earning player of the game honors vs. Bolivia will certainly keep him right in the mix as the USMNT’s backline of the future comes into sharper focus.
“We definitely have a lot of good younger guys who are up and coming, and I think there’s going to be a lot of competition at this position moving forward,” Zimmerman said. “We’re all excited for it. I think we’re ready for that challenge and I think we’re ready to be consistent international players.”