FRISCO, Texas - Walker Zimmerman has been looking forward to this day for quite some time.
A little over three months after being selected by FC Dallas in the first round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Zimmerman finally got a chance to show why everyone is so high on him, fully practicing with FCD for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“It was good. It’s been a long time,” Zimmerman said after practice. “It was just exciting to get back on the field and start getting to bond with these guys and learn how they play.”
It certainly has been a long time for Zimmerman who said this was his first full-speed training session since November. He’s been struggling with a groin injury for quite some time, a battle that was as much mental as it was physical for the 19-year-old.
Head Coach Schellas Hyndman said that the rookie’s introduction into the squad can be a morale boost to the whole team.
“The big thing with him is that it was a serious injury that stopped everything he likes to do: run, jump and physically play,” said Hyndman. “He continued to work hard for six months to the point now where he’s able to train with the team. It’s not just a lift for him; I think it’s a lift for the whole team.
“The players are looking around saying ‘Ok, so this is why we got him,’ and now the coaches are saying, ‘You know what, he’s going to be a good first round draft pick.’”
With the mental hurdle mostly cleared, the battle now becomes physical.
Zimmerman wasted no time in that aspect, battling with Kenny Cooper in much of the four-on-four small-sided scrimmages. Throughout training, the rookie could be seen tussling with the big veteran as the two battled for every loose ball.
“Kenny’s a great player. Obviously his strength is holding the ball up and he’s a big guy so it’s good to have that physical battle,” said Zimmerman. “It was definitely a good battle out there and a friendly rivalry and competition, so it only makes us both better when we’re going at it like that.”
While only his first training session, it wasn’t hard to see why some projected Zimmerman to go number one overall before the draft. The rookie showed a desire to mix it up that you don’t see from many his age and while wily veterans like Cooper, Eric Hassli and Blas Perez taught the kid a thing or two at times, the future looks bright for the young American now that he’s finally able to participate in training.
“The thing that he brings is he’s extremely, extremely courageous. He reminds me a lot of a Zach Loyd or George John in that they’ll go through anything to get to the ball,” said Hyndman. “We hope to keep that and get him on the field whether it’s reserve games or first team games.
"He was our first round draft pick and we want him to be able to contribute the way Matt [Hedges] did last year and George [John] did the first year he came in.”