ATL United and Nashville SC: Furman Soccer in the Pros
Former Furman Soccer standouts Walker Zimmerman and Laurence Wyke shared the field once again, except this time as rivals. Zimmerman came into Nashville’s inaugural season as a focused and well-trained veteran of the MLS this past February, to stand at opposite ends of the field from Wyke in his debut for Atlanta United’s premier team.
Zimmerman played for the Paladins in 2011 and 2012, earning the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year title and All-Southern Conference honors his freshman year. After only two seasons with the ‘Dins, Zimmerman was selected in the first round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by FC Dallas where he would begin to tally almost 150 professional appearances and 13 goals as an elite defender.
Recent alum Wyke is beginning what is sure to be a strong professional career at Atlanta United and in the MLS. At Furman, Wyke’s power playing lead the men’s soccer program to their 2018 Southern Conference Championship title and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Wyke began his professional career at Atlanta United 2 in February of 2019, carrying over his power and confidence from Furman to all 29 starts of his first season. A year later, on a four-day contract with Atlanta’s first team, Wyke made his professional debut for Atlanta United in Nashville, earning 45 minutes of playing time and an official long-term contract. With a confirmed contract and an impressive first appearance, Wyke was given a starting position only days later in Atlanta United’s 2020 home opener, playing in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium under the eye of 70,000 fans.
“I never expected so early to get my Atlanta United debut for the first team and to then play another game after that and start…but that happened and now I need to focus and solidify myself as a player that can have an impact in Atlanta United’s history,” said Wyke.
Atlanta United played only five games before the onset of COVID-19 stunted their season and began the long stretch of months at home. With the season delayed until further notice, individual training and long recovery times allowed players to train at a higher level and focus on specific weaknesses.
Although the training was beneficial for its emphasis on individual weaknesses, it revealed some discrepancies among the Atlanta United squad, who fell 4-2 against Zimmerman and Nashville SC this past Saturday. Zimmerman and the Nashville defensive line gave little to no room for Atlanta United to get a scoring opportunity, taking advantage of Atlanta’s disconnect and extending their winning streak to four games, remaining unbeaten at home since the season re-started in August.
“Fair play and credit to them but we’ll be back I’m sure…it’s coming to be quite a contest between the two,” said Wyke, referencing Atlanta’s previous two wins over the Tennessee team. Atlanta was not showcasing its normal dominance but is looking to turn the short season into another championship run later this fall.
“It’s been difficult to figure out what everyone’s like because we’ve not played together much […] 90-minute games build the team,” said Wyke, hoping for the ease of play that comes with a longer season. “We’ve got the quality; we just need to get a little bit of confidence and momentum under our belts and we’ll be just fine.”
Wyke and Atlanta United finish their regular season with two home games and a trip to Chicago in late September, looking for confidence, composure and a strong finish to the delayed season.