A long-standing tradition for the U.S. Men’s National Team is to have first-timers sing in front of the entire team during their initial camp. With the MNT’s early-year gathering winding down this past week, that opportunity came for newbies Sebastian Lletget, Jorge Villafaña and Walker Zimmerman at dinner Thursday night.
Lletget gave a pretty good rendition of the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and Villafaña made it through Katy Perry’s “Firework”, but it was Zimmerman who stole the show as he impressively belted out “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.
No we don’t have video, but it seems it was a sign of things to come for the 23-year-old center back, who gave an assured performance in his U.S. MNT debut in Friday’s 1-0 victory against Jamaica.
“I was extremely excited to get the opportunity and I thought we had a good performance as a team,” Zimmerman told ussoccer.com. “Ultimately, to put the effort in that we did and come away with a result, 1-0, it was perfect.”
Hailing from nearby Lawrenceville, Ga., Zimmerman’s first MNT cap was made even more special by having his family as well as a number of high school and college friends make the short trip to Chattanooga to see him partner with Steve Birnbaum in central defense.
Along with full backs Graham Zusi and Villafaña, the pair limited Jamaica to just four shots, none of which were on goal, as they developed their chemistry through the course of the match.
“It’s obviously different with every player, every back line that you’re with,” Zimmerman said. “Steve and I had gotten a few reps together in camp, so we were just learning each other’s tendencies, communicating well and I think we just got better as the game went on.”
As the team returned to the hotel following the match, head coach Bruce Arena carried out another MNT tradition, gifting Zimmerman a team-signed ball to mark the occasion of his first cap.
With the memory of his Thursday night solo still fresh in everyone’s mind, his MNT teammates asked for an encore performance, and the FC Dallas center back delivered again with Justin Bieber hit, “Love Yourself”.
Closing out camp on that high note, Zimmerman returns to FC Dallas as a U.S. international, confident in what he showed to Arena and his staff in January Camp.
“I think just realizing that you belong at this level is the main [takeaway],” he said. “Training with all these amazing players in camp, performing well in camp and in the game, all you can do is put your best foot forward and put the effort in and the rest is up to the coaching staff. I’m pleased with the body of work over the past month and now we’ll see what happens in the future.”Read more
Photos from the U.S. Men's National Team's 1-0 win against Jamaica at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn. A 59th minute goal from striker Jordan Morris assisted by Benny Feilhaber marked the difference and gave Bruce Arena his first win of his second tenure in charge of the MNT. After wrapping up January Camp on a high note, the U.S. MNT reconvenes for two crucial World Cup Qualifying matches on March 24 vs. Honduras in San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas, UDN) and March 28 at Panama (Kickoff TBD; beIN Sports).Read more
While the U.S. Men’s National Team created plenty of chances in Friday’s 1-0 win against Jamaica, it was one moment of magic between Benny Feilhaber and Jordan Morris that defined the game and capped off January Camp the right way.
Making his first MNT start since January 2012, Feilhaber broke the 59th minute goal down following the match.
“Dax [McCarty] got the ball with a little bit of space -- I could tell he was looking at me and kind of wanted me to move into space where I could find the ball,” he told ussoccer.com. “I was kind of hidden a little bit behind their defensive midfielder, and so I was trying to open up space for him.”
- READ MORE: MNT Closes January Camp With 1-0 Win vs. Jamaica
- WATCH: Highlights from the MNT's 1-0 Win vs. Jamaica
McCarty hit a penetrating pass through the middle for Feilhaber, who had a good read on Morris’ positioning and cleverly flicked a first-time pass to the Seattle Sounders FC striker.
“Even before Dax played me the ball I saw that Jordan was kind of off my shoulder. Dax played me a great ball and I was able to just one-time it to Jordan.”
Morris quickly returned the ball to Feilhaber, which proved to be a crucial pass in the play’s development according to the Sporting KC midfielder.
“I think the best pass of that sequence - which is a little bit understated - is Jordan’s back to me which puts their left back [Damion Lowe] in a position where he can’t do anything – he can’t come to me, he can’t come to Jordan – it makes it easy for me to play it back to Jordan and then he does the rest.”Read more