Laurent Ciman

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LA FC continues active offseason with addition of Laurent Ciman

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It seems like Major League Soccer’s latest expansion team is taking a page out of Atlanta United’s playbook in its buildup to the 2018 season.

[ MORE: NYCFC provides stadium details for Belmont proposal ]

After selecting five players in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, Los Angeles FC announced that it will be sending two of those players to the Montreal Impact.

LA FC will be sending Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards to the Impact.

The return? Bob Bradley and LA FC will acquire Impact center back Laurent Ciman — who has proven to be one of the best defenders in MLS since arriving in 2015.

“Laurent is a top defender who provides leadership and great distribution,” Bradley said upon acquiring Ciman. “His experience in the league and with the Belgian National Team will be invaluable as we build our club.”

With the addition of Ciman now in place, LA FC has built a strong central defensive partnership after the club also brought in former FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman in a trade on Sunday.

The expansion side already made a major splash with its first Designated Player signing this year, bringing in Mexican international Carlos Vela.

Impact defender Ciman hopes to extend MLS stay past 2018

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While he may not be one of the household names in Major League Soccer in terms of popularity, Laurent Ciman has easily become one of the league’s top defenders since coming to North America.

[ MORE: Sounders in firm control of West final after leg 1 victory ]

The Montreal Impact center back arrived on the MLS scene back in 2015, and has spent the last three seasons with the Canadian side.

In that span, Ciman has not only allowed those within the MLS ranks, but also with his native Belgium, to which he has earned various call ups to the national team recently. He is also on track to make the Red Devils squad ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

The 32-year-old has plans to remain with the Impact past 2018, when his contract expires, and Ciman says he hopes the club’s next manager — Remi Garde — will be able to assemble a quick turn around.

“My projects are based in the MLS. I have a year left with Montreal, and my goal is to extend my contract in North America after that,” said Ciman.

“Last season was disappointing, but I hope the new coach will give new momentum to the team.”

The Impact missed the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017 after the team lost nine of its last 10 regular season matches.

Pre-EURO int’l friendly roundup: Belgium top Norway; Wales hammered by Sweden

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A roundup of Sunday’s international friendlies as 24 European nations prepare for EURO 2016…

Belgium 3-2 Norway

Romelu Lukaku (3rd minute) and Eden Hazard (70th minute) scored their 12th and 13th international goals, respectively, as Belgium overcame a 2-1 deficit at home to Norway on Sunday. That’s four goals in four international games for Lukaku, including all three of Belgium’s exhibitions to open the summer. The Montreal Impact’s Laurent Ciman scored the winning goal three minutes after Hazard put the Red Devils back on level terms.

That’s it for Belgium’s pre-EURO 2016 friendlies. The next time they take the field, it’ll be against Italy in Lyon, France, on Monday, June 13. Sweden and Ireland are the other two teams in a loaded Group E.

Sweden 3-0 Wales

Speaking of Sweden, the Fighting Zlatans hammered Gareth Bale‘s Wales on Sunday without their unemployed talisman even having to lift a finger to help score a goal to do so. Emil Forsberg (40th minute), Mikael Lustig (57th minute) and John Guidetti (87th minute) bagged the goals with Ibrahimovic and Bale both being subbed off just after the hour mark.

Sweden will kick off their EURO 2016 campaign against the Irish in Saint-Denis, France, also on Monday, June 13. As for Wales, a Group B-opening date with Slovakia awaits in Bordeaux, France, next Saturday, June 11.

Elsewhere in international friendlies

Russia 1-1 Serbia
Slovenia 0-1 Turkey
Czech Republic 1-2 South Korea

Montreal’s Ciman wins Defender of the Year award in close vote

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In a crowded field, Montreal defender Laurent Ciman stood out to voters as the No. 1 defender in Major League Soccer.

Oddly enough, it feels difficult to imagine it wasn’t the Belgian’s offensive flair that helped moved him past Vancouver’s Kendall Waston, Dallas’ Matt Hedges and RBNY’s Matt Miazga for the honors.

The player and media vote was close, but Ciman won his award with the club votes.

[ MORE: MLS Rookie of the Year = not a close vote ]

A crunching and intelligent tackler for Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, Ciman scored a pair of goals and added two assists for the Impact. But his vision and passing were a critical part of his game as well, and Ciman did take the fifth-most shots on Montreal (35).

It’s hard to not feel aggrieved if you’re a Waston fan, or an Omar Gonzalez fan. Plenty of players may’ve stood out in a game for more highlight-worthy reasons, but Ciman was a standout in traditional and advanced stats.

And Ciman is a feel-good winner as well, coming to North America to give his family, which includes a daughter who has autism, a better chance at getting top notch care.

MLS Defender of the Year Winners:
2015: Laurent Ciman, Montreal Impact
2014: Chad Marshall, Seattle Sounders
2013: Jose Goncalves, New England Revolution
2012: Matt Besler, Sporting Kansas City
2011: Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
2010: Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake
2009: Chad Marshall, Columbus Crew
2008: Chad Marshall, Columbus Crew
2007: Michael Parkhurst, New England Revolution
2006: Bobby Boswell, D.C. United
2005: Jimmy Conrad, Kansas City Wizards
2004: Robin Fraser, Columbus Crew
2003: Carlos Bocanegra, Chicago Fire
2002: Carlos Bocanegra, Chicago Fire
2001: Jeff Agoos, San Jose Earthquakes
2000: Peter Vermes, Kansas City Wizards
1999: Robin Fraser, LA Galaxy
1998: Lubos Kubik, Chicago Fire
1997: Eddie Pope, D.C. United
1996: John Doyle, San Jose Clash

Canadian Championship (leg 1) Snapshot: Montreal Impact 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Vancouver Whitecaps got exactly the result they hoped to achieve in their first-leg meeting with the Montreal Impact of the first leg of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday night — kind of. In truth, the Whitecaps were angling for a 0-0 away result from the first whistle — so much so, in fact, that through first 45 minutes, that the visitors didn’t attempt a single shot in the champions series’ opening quarter of play. That same gameplan ensued well into the second half for the ‘Caps, until Darren Mattocks nabbed the unlikeliest of opening goals, following by a second from Pedro Morales. However, with two away goals already in tow, the ‘Caps were unable to kill the game off and retain their two-goal lead. Carl Robinson’s side would have snatched a draw out of your hand before the game began, but considering the varying game states along the way, a 2-2 draw will be thoroughly infuriating. The second leg will be played in two weeks’ time (Wednesday, August 26) at BC Place in Vancouver.

[ MORE: Week 23 MLS Team of the Week | Player of the Week ]

Three moments that mattered

65′ — Mattocks’ delicate touch give the ‘Caps an unlikely lead — Kianz Froese broke down the left side for Vancouver, got to the endline and provided a really dangerous cross into the six-yard box of Montreal. Mattocks, not typically known for his feathery first touch, provided the most delicate of redirects and sent the ball just inside the far post for an unlikely 1-0 ‘Caps lead.

72′ — Morales embarrasses Kronberg with a near-post free kick — Pedro Morales is not someone for whom you want to leave an entire half of goal open and unmarked on a free kick. For some reason, Eric Kronberg did just that, and Morales curled a stunner and made him pay.

85′ — Jackson completes Montreal’s quick double-salvo — Laurent Ciman pulled one back through Laurent Ciman’s header of Marco Donadel’s corner kick. 22-year-old Anthony Jackson-Hamel grabbed an equalizer barely 60 seconds later.

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Man of the match: Marco Donadel

Goalscorers: Mattocks (65′), Morales (72′), Ciman (84′), Jackson-Hamel (85′)