Toronto FC shores up defence with ex-Montreal Impact star Ciman
After a year spent pulling balls out of the back of the net far too often, Toronto FC made a major move to shore up its backline on Thursday, bringing former Montreal Impact stalwart Laurent Ciman into the fold.
Ciman, 33, was Major League Soccer’s defender of the year in 2015 and made the league’s Best XI, earning all-star berths that year and in 2016 and 2018, before he left Los Angeles FC in August to play for FC Dijon in France.
Ciman was eager to return to Canada for family reasons and the Reds were eager to snap him up. The team acquired the Belgian centre back through a trade with expansion club Cincinnati to get the number one slot in the allocation order. Cincinnati returned the second slot (which Toronto had previously traded to acquire), along with TFC’s second round pick in the MLS SuperDraft in the deal.
Toronto gave up a franchise-worst 64 goals in 2018 and though the blame for all of the goals conceded can be spread around, the consistent injury absences of top centre backs Chris Mavinga and Drew Moor were probably the biggest culprits. The club surrendered about a goal less a game when one of them took the field (they rarely were able to take to the pitch together, unlike in 2017, when they formed a rock-solid centre of a stingy, championship-winning defence).
Now head coach Greg Vanney will have three quality players to rotate through, with fellow veteran Moor likely moving to more of a reserve role when all are healthy, though that is yet to be decided.
“Grateful to be back in Canada, a place we call home. Excited about this new chapter with Toronto FC,” Ciman tweeted on Thursday.
“We are excited to add a player with Laurent’s vast experience,” TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a release.
“He is an excellent passer, an organizer in the back and a passionate, fiery competitor. We look forward to him joining our club immediately and becoming an important part of our group.”
Ciman captained both Montreal and Los Angeles and has made 20 appearances for Belgium’s senior team, including the stirring run to the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil.
TFC aims to be more active wide in the coming season and having more stability in the middle should help. Former all-star Justin Morrow is dangerous on the left, Gregory van der Wiel on the right, and Auro and newcomer Nick DeLeon can also bring speed to the mix out of the back.
The season begins in Chester, Penn. On March 2 and Toronto takes on New England at home on March 17.
Seeing Ciman in red, instead of his customary blue should only spice up the bitter rivalry between the Montreal and Toronto fanbases.