ORLANDO, Fla. – The challenge of going up against Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa doesn't quite faze Walker Zimmerman. The LAFC center back, who will be playing in his first MLS All-Star Game presented by Target Wednesday (8 PM ET | FS1, UniMás, TVAS, TSN), knows the challenge is a big one, but he’s excited.
“I think you look at the player of his stature and also his experience, the teams that he’s played for, it’s going to be such a fun challenge as a defender to go up against a player like him,” Zimmerman said.
To set perspective for what’s on the horizon, Zimmerman reflected on his previous two games with LAFC that saw him defend Zlatan Ibrahimovic in El Trafico and Josef Martinez, most recently, during a 4-3 win against Atlanta United at Banc of California Stadium.
“You look at the stretch of games, you go from playing Zlatan, to Josef to Bradley Wright-Phillips to a guy like [Chris Wondolowski], who scored 153 goals in the league,” said Zimmerman. “So, every weekend presents its own challenge. This will certainly be a big one. And I know that it’s one I’m little bit more excited for.”
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"I'll deal with him the same way I deal with all the physical forwards I meet up with,” the Jamaican international said. “He’s a smart guy, a guy who knows how to draw fouls. You try not to rush in, try to time the tackle if you get to, and just be smart. He's a guy who will try to hit you off the ball, maybe get you a card, so just try to be smart, play the game the right way."
When asked what MLS All-Stars coach James O’Connor’s approach to the exhibition, Lawrence said the Orlando City SC coach wants to win the game against Atleti.
“Basically, what he said was for the next couple of days before the game just try to relax, try to do things the right way,” said Lawrence. “Game day we have be switched on, you got to be ready to play because he wants to win the game, and I feel like that’s the right approach because we want to win the game, it’ll be good.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger can’t recall playing against the Spanish forward during his playing days in Europe, but said facing the Atleti forward will require the same effort when going up against Ibrahimovic or Wayne Rooney.
"I don't know if I've played against him, maybe with Chelsea or the Spanish national team,” said Schweinsteiger. “He's very smart. He knows what to do on the field, he can make a goal out of nothing. He's fighting, you have to watch out but you play against him the same way you play against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney or other strikers.”