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UPPER90 MAGAZINE

THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF SOCCER IN GEORGIA

VOLUME 1 • ISSUE 2

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NEXT GENERATION NEEDS FOCUS, TECHNICAL ABILITY

NEXT GENERATION NEEDS FOCUS, TECHNICAL ABILITY GEORGIA’S MAN OF THE HOUR MAKES DEBUT WITH USMNT SOCCER CITY PROFILE:

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COLLEGIATE CORNER: KNOW THE ABCS OF PLAYING COLLEGE SOCCER

THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING A REFEREE CLUB SPOTLIGHT MARCH/APRIL 2017

FORMER GWINNETT SOCCER ASSOCIATION STANDOUT

Walker Zimmerman Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein

Your Resource for Soccer Events, Updates, Training, and More in Georgia

MARCH/APRIL 2017

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Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein

GEORGIA’S MAN OF THE HOUR MAKES DEBUT WITH USMNT Former Gwinnett Soccer Association star Walker Zimmerman helps shut down Jamaica in Chattanooga and walks away with Man of the Match honors for his impressive effort. By Loyd McIntosh

IT’S FRIDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 3 AND THINGS HAVE TURNED A wee bit cold in Chattanooga. The temperature by 7 p.m. was around 32 degrees and dropping rapidly. A large and enthusiastic crowd braved the cold weather and packed into W. Max Finley Stadiumto see history in the making as the 34

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U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) take on Jamaica in an international friendly. The occasion marked the first official UMSNT start of Georgia’s own Walker Zimmerman. Judging from his performance on the pitch, Zimmerman’s career and status with the USMNT is hotA native of Lawrenceville, Georgia, Zimmerman has been turning heads in the national soccer world since he came on the MLS


scene in 2013 with FC Dallas. Now in his fifth season with the club, the 23-year-old saw limited action during his first two seasons but has steadily worked his way into a leadership role in Dallas. He anchored the Dallas defense in 2016 during the club’s run, earning Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup trophies. It only seemed natural that the 6-foot, 3-inch defender would eventually get his chance to represent the U.S. Taking the field for the first time against Jamaica, Zimmerman made the most of his opportunity. USMNT head coach Bruce Arena called up Zimmerman in January for a three-week training session in preparation for a pair of friendlies this winter. Arena chose not to play Zimmerman in the first contest in San Diego, a date with Serbia that ended in a scoreless draw. Instead, he put Zimmerman into the starting lineup for the matchup against Jamaica, just two hours away from his childhood home in the Atlanta suburbs. “I had my parents here, my brother and his wife, some high school friends and college friends, my club soccer coach, a good many people came out,” Zimmerman said during a Q&A session with members of the press following the game. “That’s all you can ask for as a player is the opportunity. Just to have my parents and my family and a lot of friends, it’s a pretty special moment for me.” Arena used 23 different players in these two games since he took over for Jurgen Klinsmann, who was let go in late 2016. Many of those players are in a similar situation as Zimmerman — young, loaded with talent, and hungry to get a chance. “I think the mentality of everyone in this group is it’s a new coaching staff, everyone’s got a fresh slate, and so for me coming in it was ‘why not me? Why can’t I try to make a push and get on this roster’?” In the 1-0 victory over Jamaica, Zimmerman anchored a defense that had its hands full keeping up with the quickness of skillful Jamaican attackers. However, Zimmerman was solid, displaying a poise and confidence that kept the Jamaican offense scoreless for the entire 90-minute match. “I thought it was a good performance,” said Zimmerman following the match. “Any time you get a clean sheet it means you’re doing something right defensively, so I thought we did well. We grew into the game and I thought our organization and communication got better minute one to minute 90.” Arena commented on Zimmerman’s play during his postgame press conference, and, while he wouldn’t speculate about his future role with the USMNT, it’s safe to say the new head coach liked what he saw. “I thought tonight (Zimmerman) had a terrific game. I’m very impressed with him,” said Arena. “Everyone in the area should be proud of him.” One of those in the stands that night was Nuno Piteira, boys director of coaching for the Gwinnett Soccer Association (GSA). Piteira was Zimmerman’s youth coach, working with him

“He’s always had the ability, but there was a composure there that caught me off guard. He looked like a veteran, like he had about 50 CAPS under his belt. I was really impressed and felt like a proud dad last night.”

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since his days on the U13 squad at GSA. Piteira said he knew Zimmerman had the talent and drive to make the USMNT roster, however, he was struck by how natural and self-confident Zimmerman looked in his USMNT debut. “I was blown away,” says Piteira. “He’s always had the ability, but there was a composure there that caught me off guard. He looked like a veteran, like he had about 50 CAPS under his belt. I was really impressed and felt like a proud dad last night.” Piteira arrived at GSA 11 years ago and immediately began coaching Zimmerman, who was already showing some promise as an elite athlete. In fact, Zimmerman comes from an athletic family, so he comes by much of his talent naturally. His brother, Dawson, was a punter at Clemson and he has an aunt who played professional golf for a while, and an uncle who spent time as a tennis pro. By the time he began playing for Piteira, he had already made the U.S. National Team pool. However, Piteira says this star athlete in the making faced some serious challenges once he hit puberty. “All of a sudden, for about two years, he started going through these massive growth spurts. Let me tell you, there were times that he could barely walk,” Piteira explains. “He’d be hurt and sore to the point where when he stepped on the field it was hard for him to perform at a certain level. It made it tough for me to even put him in the lineup at times,” he says. “I think the key thing there is he never gave up and I think he always kind of kept his eye on the prize even when things got real tough for him.” By his sophomore year in high school, Zimmerman had grown into his body and displayed a level of talent that Piteira says made him “a man among boys.” He says Zimmerman set a goal to be a U.S. National Team player and set out to make that dream a reality, giving up many of the usual teenage activities — Friday night football games, parties, sleeping in on Saturdays — to train. “He’s got that discipline and that purpose in terms of knowing what he wants. He’s lucky in that physically God’s blessed him with great physical ability, but he understood that he’s been given this ability, and it’s his job to go and maximize it with everything that he has and not hold back. That’s really what separates him from the rest.” In addition to being a superior athlete, Piteira says Zimmerman is an even better person. A dedicated Christian — his father was a Baptist minister for more than 20 years — Zimmerman is a leader with rock-solid moral character. Piteira says he’s even been a positive influence on him. “He’s one of the one or two kids who have come into my life where I’ve learned more about life from him than he ever did from me,” says Piteira. He says stories of Zimmerman’s natural leadership are well known within coaching circles,

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Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF SOCCER IN GEORGIA

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but to Piteira, one instance in particular stands out. It began during Zimmerman’s junior year while his club team was making a run at a national championship. Piteira says the team’s starting goalkeeper got a little overconfident and began engaging in a little smack talk prior to a pivotal playoff game. The next day the same goalie had, in Piteira’s words, a “nightmare of a game” allowing two early goals. Piteira pulled the keeper at halftime and was ready to read him the riot act when Zimmerman stepped in and pulled the entire team together to rally around their goalie. “Walker got the whole team together and said ‘everybody, get up here.’ They all huddled up and Walker said, ‘Let me tell you something. We love you man. You are a big part of our team and we wouldn’t be here without you. We’ve won a lot of games and we’ve lost some, but you’ve been a big part of that. Let me tell you, we’ve all made mistakes and when we’ve made mistakes, we’ve been there for each other. So what? You made a mistake or two today. We’re here for you. We’ll come back here tomorrow, kick ass, and we’re going to do what we gotta do.’ “I went from wanting to kill this kid to all of a sudden feeling like a little boy, immature that I’m learning a lesson from a 17-year-old,” Piteira adds. “That’s what he reminded of in that moment.” For Zimmerman, the hard work, dedication, decency, and perseverance are paying off. He earned another callback for the USMNT World Cup qualifying matches with Panama and Honduras in late March, and MLS.com reports a pair of German clubs — VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96 — have their eyes on the rising star. Additionally, he won Man of the Match honors from the Fox Sports broadcast team for his play in the game against Jamaica. With a handful of rowdy fans whooping and hollering from the stands as Zimmerman and a few teammates spoke to the press following the game, the Georgian imparted a few words of wisdom to any young person who might look to him for inspiration. “It takes a lot of hard work and if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, you’re probably not going to get to where you want to go. You got to put in the extra work,” said Zimmerman. “You have to do the extra fitness, extra touches on the ball, because that’s the only way you’re going to separate yourself, so it’s a lot of hard work and it only keeps getting harder once you get here. You can never be satisfied.” 

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Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF SOCCER IN GEORGIA

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Profile for Loyd McIntosh

Walker Zimmerman Makes USMNT Debut  

Georgia's man of the hour makes his debut with the United States Men's National Team in Chattanooga.

Walker Zimmerman Makes USMNT Debut  

Georgia's man of the hour makes his debut with the United States Men's National Team in Chattanooga.

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