Just when Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman thought his week couldn’t get any better, he was named to the MLS Best XI on Thursday morning.
This just one day after the 28-year-old was named MLS’ Defender of the Year for the third consecutive season. Zimmerman’s third Best XI selection is the most of any of the players selected in 2021.
Zimmerman is also just the third defender with three straight Best XI selections and the first since Jimmy Conrad from 2004-2006. In addition, Zimmerman is one of just five defenders with three or more career Best XI selections, and two behind Robin Fraser for most in league history.
Zimmerman ranked fourth on the team with three goals while accumulating the fifth-most shots (24) and fourth-most shots on target (10) as the anchor of Nashville’s defense that tied for the fewest goals allowed (33) and lowest goals against average (0.97) in 2021.
He was also a captain of the U.S. Men’s National Team during World Cup qualifying.
Similarly, Nashville SC teammate Hany Mukhtar was named to the Best XI — his first selection. The German midfielder, who led MLS with 28 goals plus assists, is a frontrunner for league MVP. His 16 goals are tied for the fifth-most in the league, and the only other MVP finalist with more goals is NYCFC’s Valentin Castellanos.
Mukhtar finished with the second-most shots on target (43), fourth-most assists (12) and fifth-most shots (94) in MLS. He had three goals in two Nashville SC playoff games before the club was eliminated by the Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference semifinal, and he scored the fastest hat trick in MLS history in a 5-1 win over the Chicago Fire on July 17.
Nine of the players named to the 11-man Best XI are from Nashville, New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders, collectively. And eight play for teams in the Eastern Conference. The full list is below:
Forwards: Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Valentin Castellanos (New York City FC), Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Hany Mukhtar (Nashville SC), Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Joao Paulo (Seattle Sounders)
Defenders: Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Yeimar Gomez (Seattle Sounders), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_