In 2017, LAFC made massive splashes in the transfer market, most notably, the signing of Mexican international Carlos Vela. The signing showed that not only that the club seek to match their city rivals LA Galaxy in terms of star power, but to show the league that they are ready to compete.
To compliment Vela, they’ve also signed 19-year old Uruguayan Diego Rossi, winger Latif Blessing in the expansion draft, Benny Feilhaber from Sporting Kansas City, and Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas.
In order to compete right away, not only did they need a solid attack, but a stable defense as well, and it’s no surprise why they traded expansion draft picks Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards to pry away one of the best defenders in the league, Laurent Ciman.
While Vela is the club’s high-profile signing, it is the Belgian international who is the club’s top acquisition this offseason. Here are three reasons why:
1. He’s not only an experienced MLS defender, but an experienced international defender as well.
To ensure the club competes immediately, they made sure to acquire a top quality defender who knows the league well. This was a key move because while LAFC look to score plenty of goals, they need to keep as many out of the net. Just look what happened to the neighbors across the way last season.
In his three year career in the MLS, Ciman has made an instant impact. His hard-nose tackling and excellent positioning sense made him MLS defender of the year in 2015, 2-time MLS all-star, and helped the Montreal Impact to two playoff appearances in three years.
With the signing of Ciman, he will find it easier to acclimate with the team and to the speed and pace of the league, which is a bonus for Bob Bradley and co.
As a result, his play earned him another call-up to former Beligum manager Marc Wilmot’s side for EURO 2016. He was also called-up to new manager Roberto Martinez’s side in their last friendly vs. Mexico back in October.
While the MLS has acquired the moniker of a “retirement league”, players like Ciman prove that the MLS is a viable pathway for players to earn international call-ups.
2. He is a good ball-playing centerback
In today’s game, long gone are the players whose only responsibility was to break-up play and huff the ball down the pitch. Today’s defenders have to be just as good with the ball at their feet as their midfield and forward counterparts, and Ciman is one of the best in the MLS in that department.
Ciman is excellent with his ball at his feet. He is good technically and while he can break-up play magnificently, he immediately turns around and helps initiate counter-attacks. In possession, he is a great passer of the ball. In three seasons, he assisted three goals, which is not bad for a center-back.
At his new club, Bob Bradley will like his team to hold possession. Playing the ball out from the back is integral in achieving that. With Ciman at the back, they got themselves an example of a modern-day defender.
3. He will be a great mentor to Walker Zimmerman.
This offseason, a priority for LAFC was to sort out their defense for the upcoming season. Along with the signing of Ciman, they also acquired centerback Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas in exchange for $250,000 in General Allocation Money and $250,000 in Targeted Allocation Money plus the #1 Allocation Ranking.
While he’s had an excellent start to his career in Texas, he is still a young player and the sky’s the limit for the American international. He will play alongside a defender with MLS experience, European experience, and international experience.
Playing alongside Ciman will only help Zimmerman’s career in not only forming a formidable partnership at the back, but but also becoming a good ball-playing centerback as well.
Ciman during his time in Montreal adopted a leadership role within the team. The Belgian has experience in organizing backlines throughout his career and Zimmerman could learn from one of the best in the league and captain the backline when he takes over the reigns from Ciman if he is traded, decides to retire, or leaves the club as a free agent.
This season, Bradley will hope that his centerbacks develop chemistry early in the season because a defense in unison will help LAFC compete.