It’s about locking things down defensively, having a strong spine and being tough to break down.
The formula for success beyond Year One isn’t as obvious, and the Nashville SC center back credits Nashville’s braintrust with evolving the squad tactically.
“We've maintained the defensive prowess we had last year while now also adding a bunch of goals,” he said on Extratime Live with co-hosts Andrew Wiebe and David Gass from Banc of California Stadium, where he's competing in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target Wednesday (9 pm ET | FS1, Univision, TSN, TVA Sports). “I think that's a combination of a few things, certainly the personnel who are playing really well — CJ [Sapong] and Hany [Mukhtar] the forefront of that attack. But also I think it’s credit to the front office at Nashville for kind of having more than just a one-year plan.”
The stats back up Zimmerman’s assertion, with Nashville sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. Their 32 goals scored are tied for third in the conference, while the 20 they’ve conceded are tied for second.
Part of Nashville's success can also be attributed to the roster build, with a host of veterans like Dax McCarty, Anibal Godoy, Zimmerman, Sapong, David Accam, Dave Romney, Alex Muyl, Jalil Anibaba and Joe Willis whose vast MLS experience is reflected on the field, on the training ground and in the locker room.
“There’s certainly something to be said about experience and you’ve got a lot of guys on our roster, in particular, who probably have probably over 100 games and that counts for a lot,” Zimmerman said. "It’s undervalued by a lot of teams, I would say. … It really is helpful and I think you bring it into training as well and just the overall professionalism and expectations of the group and I think it definitely adds a lot to the team.”
The MLS All-Star Game is the latest highlight in a big summer for Zimmerman, one that included competing in the Concacaf Gold Cup. Zimmerman started all three group stage games for a young, MLS-based US men's national team, but left the final group stage match against Canada, and the remainder of the competition, through injury.
The USMNT went on to win the Gold Cup and Zimmerman started an aggressive rehabilitation plan to get him back into contention for upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. Head coach Gregg Berhalter's team opens a three-match window on Sept. 2 at El Salvador.
“Anytime you get injured, it’s just a dagger, a gut punch because in this profession you work so hard to get to moments like that,” Zimmerman said. "With that being said, incredibly proud of what was accomplished with that group at the Gold Cup, really impressed with the character, resiliency and fight everyone showed. Then obviously my first thought, as soon as I went down, was almost doing math in my head of how much time do I have before qualifiers? Can I get back?”
For more from Extratime Live, check out the complete show here.