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Zimmerman Impresses In First Career Start

First round SuperDraft pick went the full 90 against San Jose on Saturday.

via FC Dallas Communications

One thing we've learned over the last few years is that Schellas Hyndman and his staff do an extremely good job of snagging defensive talent in the MLS SuperDraft. From guys like George John, to Zach Loyd and Matt Hedges, nearly all of Hyndman's first round picks since he has been in charge have been defenders.

That was why the selection of Walker Zimmerman back in January made everyone scratch their heads. Some could argue that the club didn't need another center back to go along with John, Hedges and newly acquired defender Stephen Keel.

"When we drafted him, we did a lot of studies on the type of player we like to get," said Hyndman following the win over San Jose. "We've been very fortunate with the types of players we feel like are natural center backs, like George John and Matt Hedges. We thought Walker fit into that category."

Zimmerman came to FC Dallas with an injury to his groin that kept him out of the preseason and part of the first few weeks of the regular season.

But that didn't stop him from getting back to full strength and becoming a contender for minutes on the field. Last Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, Zimmerman was rewarded with his first big chance to show his worth to the club and the fans.

"We knew what we were going to get from San Jose, and that's a very strong, athletic, physical team. We felt that out of our selection of players, Walker might have matched up the best and he proved that tonight," explained Hyndman.

"[Zimmerman] made some good choices, good passes, he won a lot of balls in the air, he was physical, but that ball in particular. I think the more we see him, that's going to be one of his strengths, that he makes good decisions. A lot of people under pressure might kick it out, but he looked to see where that next ball was going."

Zimmerman helped keep the Quakes off the scoresheet on the night thanks in part to some smart play and good positioning on his part. He wasn't afraid to battle with the big players of San Jose.

"We prepared all week training for them," said Zimmerman. "You know, [Chris] Wondolowski, his crafty runs off the ball and also, the size of [Steven] Lenhart and [Alan] Gordon. It was a physical match. You saw the blood from Lenhart and all his tackles, battling with George. It was pretty physical, but it was something we were prepared for and I thought we did a good job handling it."

His prep work clearly showed as he had 13 clearances and one interception on the night. His headers in the penalty box were also very strong and he didn't give up any silly passes in the back with guys like Wondolowski and Lenhart pressuring him. In fact he only had two bad passes on the night and neither cost the club in the end.

The best part about looking at his performance on Saturday was the fact that if you couldn't tell it was his first career start, the kid looked like he had been back there for a couple seasons.

John was quick to praise his young partner on the performance but he also offered up that the play of Raul Fernandez was also key in the victory over San Jose.

"He's tremendous, you know on his debut...he did really well," said John. "We did have a couple of times were there was some miscommunication but Raul [Fernandez] came up huge. We got the shutout, that's really all that matters."