Walker Zimmerman trade reflects limitations even ambitious MLS teams face

One week before it opens play in the Concacaf Champions League, LAFC, the 2019 Supporters' Shield winner with a record 72 points, traded 2019 Best XI pick Walker Zimmerman to expansion Nashville SC.

Nashville SC gets a regular on the U.S. national team who will solidify its backline for its inaugural season. Zimmerman will move close to home. He grew in neighboring Georgia, just four hours from Nashville.

"In his two seasons in Los Angeles, Walker was a consummate professional and a great leader on and off the field," said LAFC executive vice president and general manager John Thorrington. "He and his wife Sally played an integral role within the LAFC family and community, and he will always be a part of our history."

Why then part with Zimmerman, especially when at 26 years he still has many years left in his career? It would be almost inconceivable in another league or another sport that a trade like this would take place.

LAFC gets from Nashville SC:

-- $600,000 in 2020 GAM;
-- $350,000 in 2021 GAM;
-- A 2020 international roster spot;
-- $150,000 in conditional GAM in both 2020 and 2021.

The trade includes an MLS record sum of allocation money for a defender but it reflects the reality of MLS and the limitations an ambitious team like LAFC faces.

LAFC is led by 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela, but it features a bevy of young South Americans, Uruguayans Brian Rodriguez and Diego Rossi, who are also Designated Players, but also Diego Palacios, Eddie Segura, Eduard Atuesta, Jose Cifuentes and Francisco Ginella, who all were signed with TAM and are returning from the South American Olympic qualifying.

There's only so much TAM or GAM an MLS team has at its disposal, even with the increases that will kick in, beginning in 2020 under the terms of the new CBA.

And there are only so many international roster spots a team has.

LAFC already acquired an extra international roster spot when it traded goalkeeper Tyler Miller to Minnesota United. It gets another international roster spot -- its 10th -- from Nashville SC, which to date has only acquired three international players from foreign clubs: Colombian Miguel Nazarit, Costa Rican Randall Leal and German Hany Mukhtar. (Honduran international Brayan Beckeles holds a green card.)

A deal with Nashville SC was natural because as an expansion team it was holding a pot of allocation money.

Thorrington admitted a balancing act was at play as LAFC sought to put its team together for 2020.

“We’re not desperate to make a move now," he told MLSSoccer.com, "but if the right option presents itself, we have the budget flexibility and roster flexibility to move."

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4 comments about "Walker Zimmerman trade reflects limitations even ambitious MLS teams face".
  1. :: SilverRey ::, February 12, 2020 at 12:51 p.m.

    There is too much focus on international spots right now. TAM has made them all the rage and the certainly the new buzz word this year and last, but people are WAAAAY overlooking domestic talent at this point.

    The trade for Zimmerman is a perfect example of what you can find here in MLS. Nashville did a good job of targeting him.

    As an example, the Union just signed Glesnes. By all acounts he should be good for the team, but Union payed at least as much for him as Nashville did for Zimmerman. Glesnes salary is slightly higher and the transfer fee was about the same. I would have been just as happy to get Zimmerman though.

    We'll see if Glesnes pans out (I do think he will be a great addition this year and looks good in preseason already), but is the grass always greener?

  2. R2 Dad replied, February 12, 2020 at 3:46 p.m.

    At the bare minimum MLS should not be strengthening our CONCACAF competitors to the detriment of homegrown talent. USSF can't seem to manage this, but we shouldn't expect the clubs to. B Arena and peers say they are just dealing with the rules as they are given--it's not their job to lobby for homegrown minutes. But USSF seems to be saving up all their energy for the USWNT lawsuit instead of these big strategic issues.

  3. Ben Myers, February 12, 2020 at 5:49 p.m.

    So all the MLS clubs seem to be in a race to add as many cheap foreign players as possible, whether through the artifice of green card or via allocation money.  This makes MLS an abolutely pathetic environment to develop elite American male players.  With all this fine support from MLS, do not look for the USMNT to get very far in the next few World Cups, if they manage to qualify.  Making it out of the World Cup round robin phase would be a fine accomplishment. 

    The only ray of hope here might be that Greg Berhalter recognizes the considerable abilities of Americans playing abroad, especially the young ones, and absolutely loads the team with those players.  To do this, he has to overcome his bias for MLS, given his considerable years of exposure to MLS play.

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, February 12, 2020 at 11:18 p.m.

    Thank you Mr. Myers, as you must've telephathically read my mind!!! I too bemoan the dearth of local talent being ignored, cause gee willikers and gosh, it shouldn't take someone working on a university degree to write a thesis, only to find out that there are/is locally grown talent right in the various MLS cities, and while I am a new LAFC supporter, I am puzzled to note that - to my knowledge - they haven't signed any (someone, please correct me!) local soccer player in the very cauldron that is home to the country's largest locally grown talent - not even withstanding the local team's academys! 

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