April 15, 2014
By Steve Hunt
Zimmerman still working way back to full fitness
Dallas Soccer News Contributor
FRISCO, Texas---Walker Zimmerman has been here before. The second-year FC Dallas center back and the seventh pick in the 2013 MLS Super Draft spent the early part of his rookie season working his way back from a groin injury.
|A groin injury has kept FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman n the sidelines since the preseason.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
And after recovering his fitness and being healthy for the middle part of the year, Zimmerman then had to contend with a hamstring injury late last summer. However, he again worked his way back and started FCD’s final two matches of last season.
But as FCD began preseason in late January, the Georgia native was again dealing with injury, another groin issue. After not playing at all during preseason and in the early stages of the regular season, he only recently returned to full training.
This week, when Dallas hosts the first of two Reserve League matches on consecutive Tuesdays at Toyota Stadium, Zimmerman could see his first game action of the young season.
“Yeah, it’s been a really tough offseason and preseason for sure. It’s been a good couple weeks, getting back into practice and training and getting fit again. We had a little 45-minute scrimmage against the U-18s this past week,” Zimmerman said. “That was just my first action in a long time. It felt good so I can definitely head in the right direction and look forward to getting back on the field.”
Only 20, this center back clearly still has his best soccer in front of him, and his youth clearly works in his favor in terms of his ability to recover from injury rather quickly. However, the fact that this latest groin injury is similar in nature to the one he was nursing when he was drafted and earlier in his tenure with FCD is a bit disconcerting.
But there is one rather big difference between the groin issue Zimmerman was contending with in 2013 and the more recent one.
“A lot of the inflammation was the same, but it’s less in the bone and more in the adductors,” he said. “So I’ve been seeing some doctors and the guys here have done a great job, so I feel like I’m at a good point.”
Zimmerman realizes that a groin injury, no matter the nature, can be rather tough to treat. But since he’s now contended with two of them over the past year, he and the FCD training staff have learned a great deal about how best to proceed in such a situation.
“It is a difficult injury to treat, but I feel like now we learned even from last year things that worked and things that did not and so I think the treatment has been a lot better this year in terms of knowing how to get back on the field more quickly,” he said.
With veteran center back George John still sidelined with a knee issue, FCD needs depth at that spot more than ever. However, one thing first-year FCD head coach Oscar Pareja doesn’t want to do with John, Zimmerman or any other injured player is rush them back too soon.
Instead, Pareja is more focused on the bigger picture when it comes to his club, namely that he will have a full complement of players available for selection when the games matter most, from the midway point of the season to the season’s final match.
“Yeah, Walker is working very well, getting closer. The good thing for him is he has been completing some games with the reserves on Tuesdays -- not the official reserves, he hasn’t been there yet. But we mimic the reserve games with some 11-v-11 we have on Tuesday and he has been doing well and getting his rhythm back,” Pareja said. “He’s another one who’s very close to being part of the 18 or the 11.”
So, as his coach says he is now getting close to seeing some game action, Zimmerman is understandably getting anxious to return to the field. But since this is a process he’s more than a little familiar with, he always makes it a point to remember is that the most important thing is that he makes progress every day and as long as he adheres to that simple mentality, everything else will take care of itself.
“I think it’s just getting used to the speed of play again, having to make quick decisions with the ball and just shaking off that rust that might have started to develop. But like I said, I feel good and each day I’m improving,” he said.
And as a native of the Atlanta area, Lawrenceville to be exact, it seemed a good time to ask him for his thoughts on Georgia’s biggest city likely joining MLS in 2017, an idea this affable young defender is pretty excited about, especially with an official announcement looming.
“Yeah, I think it’s been a long time coming. They have the Atlanta Silverbacks there, who do pretty well in their league,” Zimmerman said. “I think it’s a good thing for the city. I think we have a lot of big sports teams there, so I think soccer was the next thing that needed to happen.”