FC Dallas got a big boost on Sunday night when Mauro Diaz returned to the field just seven months after suffering a torn Achilles. The 2016 Best XI selection should help a struggling attack that has scored just two goals in their last four games. Unfortunately, while Oscar Pareja’s team saw an addition on one side of the field, they suffered a defeat on the other.
Center back Walker Zimmerman collided with the Houston Dynamo’s Alberth Elis and ended up with a strained left MCL. The injury will keep him out of the lineup for the next 4-6 weeks. That also likely means he will miss the Gold Cup, which would have been an opportunity to impress head coach Bruce Arena ahead of the World Cup.
Zimmerman, along with US national team defender Matt Hedges, have formed the staunchest center back pairing in MLS since the start of the 2016 season. The duo has led a defense that has conceded just 49 goals since then, tied for the fewest in MLS.
Hedges and Zimmerman are in many ways a perfect pairing. Hedges, the captain of Pareja’s team, is the more cerebral of the two. He’s calm on the ball, able to pick out his teammates with incisive passing, and is the organizer of the backline. While he’s not afraid to use his 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame to get into challenges and win duels, his value is really accentuated when taking into account the other aspects of his game.
Zimmerman, the younger of the two by three years, has almost the exact same frame (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) but likes to show his athleticism and physicality. He’s a beast in the air, as his 74 percent success rate since the start of 2016 is the best among players who have attempted at least 100 aerials.
Defensive statistics aren’t the best measure of a defender’s quality as they can be affected by games states. Also, as Italian legend Paolo Maldini said, “If I have to make a tackle, I’ve already made a mistake.” Still, they can show a player’s tendencies. Below you can find some per 90 stats…