Two players with ties to Atlanta were selected in the top 10 in Thursday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Walker Zimmerman, an Atlanta native and graduate of Brookwood High, was selected seventh by Dallas. Kekuta Manneh, who played for the Georgia Rush for a few months after moving from Gambia, was selected fourth by Vancouver.
Zimmerman said he thought he would be selected higher, but that he was glad to go to Dallas.
“Everything we’d been hearing was in top-six range,” he said. “It became a complete surprise. It adds to the excitement of the day. I knew a little bit about Dallas’ club and the history. I’m definitely excited.”
Zimmerman, a 6-foot, 3-inch centerback, scored five goals with two assists in 2011 at Furman, where he was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year. He added six goals and three more assists as a sophomore.
He played in the Georgia Soccer Association. He led Phoenix Red 93 to titles at the Disney Showcase and the Georgia State Cup.
He has been dealing with an inflammation in the pubic bone for the past month, which prevented him from participating in the MLS Combine earlier this week and he said may have affected his draft stock. But he will report to Dallas on Sunday and said he’s ready to play.
“I think I bring a lot to the table, both on and off the field,” he said. “I bring a physical presence on the back line. I bring a threat scoring. I’ve had success on set pieces and corners. Just (bring) an overall positive attitude to the team and the organization.”
He said he needs to improve his upper-body strength, his quickness and wants to sharpen his passing.
Zimmerman said he hopes to become a mainstay in MLS as a stalwart defender. He added he’s looking forward to Olympic qualifying and hopefully making it to the World Cup one day.
“I don’t want to set a bar on what I can do, whether that’s playing in Europe or overseas,” he said. “But I’m excited about starting my career in the MLS.”
Manneh, a 5-9 forward, played for the Georgia Rush for a few months in 2010 before moving to Texas to play for a Rush team there. He said he wanted to thank his host family, Milton's Allan and Beth Siegel, for helping him in his transition from Gambia to the U.S.
Manneh will report to Vancouver on Sunday.
“Right now I just want to go in there and find my place,” he said. “I’m just going to go and work out and see if the coach will give me a spot on team.”