Short answer is “yes”. Before you roll your eyes or point out how stupid it would be to make a defender a DP; just hear me out.
First, with Walker Zimmerman’s back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year, in addition to his solid performances on the US Men’s National Team, he is going to be looked at by clubs overseas .CBS Sports wrote an article after the US 0-0 draw with Mexico, “While there are other center backs in the system with more talent, none are better right now than Walker Zimmerman.” As much as MLS has greatly improved over the past 10 years; the top European leagues are still the top tier of soccer and almost every soccer player’s dream. Add all of that with the fact that Europe is always trying to attract American fans, Zimmerman would be a great investment for most teams across the pond. (See how Chelsea is trying to play an exhibition match in US to “promote” Pulisic)
Now let’s get into the specifics of Nashville SC and how they play along with how they’ve utilized their DP’s.
Nashville’s first DP is Hany Mukhtar. Obviously, this has been money well spent and has been a huge success for the club. Their second DP was Jhonder Cadiz who they originally took out on loan. Unfortunately, Cadiz had some bad luck and timing between getting sick himself and trying to switch clubs during the Covid season. The third DP Nashville has signed is Ake Loba who seems to be a fan favorite even though he hasn’t seen the field as much as a DP should.
Jhonder Cadiz’ contract was not renewed in the off season and he returned to the Premiera League which gives Nashville one more DP spot. So why does Zimmerman deserve that spot?
Comparing Zimmerman to the other defenders in Nashville would obviously show him heads and shoulders over his other teammates. So, I’m going to compare his stats to the other best defenders in the MLS last season, Yeimar Gomez and Miles Robinson.
(Stats pulled from mls.com)
Now, take all this information and then look at Nashville SC’s style of play and current rosters. Defense is obviously Nashville’s priority. Where they really aren’t “parking the bus” but also aren’t focusing on high scoring games. If any coach gave a DP slot to a defender, it would be Nashville’s Gary Smith.
Add that with the fact that Nashville has 4 forwards and 8 midfielders, with both DP’s being attackers, why not add a DP to the best defensive player in the league? The top tier leagues around the world pay big money for the best defenders, why should MLS be any different? Nashville’s defense first approach justifies a defender being a DP. Give Zimmerman the DP slot and pay the man. Nashville would not be the same without him.