Toronto FC, which conceded a franchise-worst 64 goals last season, moved to bolster its defence on Thursday by acquiring veteran Belgian international centreback Laurent Ciman.
To get the former MLS Defender of the Year Award, Toronto sent a second-round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft to expansion FC Cincinnati to move up one spot to the top of the allocation ranking.
The 33-year-old Ciman played most recently played for FC Dijon in France’s Ligue 1. He spent 2015 through 2018 in MLS with the Montreal Impact and Los Angeles FC.
“We are excited to add a player with Laurent’s vast experience,” Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “This is a player who has been a captain of two MLS teams, an all-star and the defender of the year.
“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, who turns 34 in August, will join veteran Drew Moor, who will be 35 in January, at the heart of the Toronto defence. Injuries limited Moor to just eight MLS appearances in 2018.
The two veterans will be supported by Chris Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, Gregory van der Wiel, Justin Morrow, Ashtone Morgan and Brazil’s Auro in the backline.
Plagued by injuries and inconsistent play in the league, Toronto went from MLS Cup winner in 2017 to 19th overall and out of the playoffs in 2018.
Ciman should add stability to the TFC defence in a 2019 season that, barring new deals, is the last under the current contracts of designated players Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.
Toronto set the stage for the Ciman acquisition earlier in December when it moved to No. 2 in the allocation ranking order in a deal that sent San Jose US$75,000 in general allocation money, $75,000 in targeted allocation money and the No. 6 allocation spot.
Major League Soccer uses the allocation process as its way of acquiring select U.S. internationals, elite youth U.S. internationals or former MLS players returning to the league after joining a non-MLS club for a transfer fee greater than $500,000.
The allocation ranking is set by taking the reverse order of the club’s standings at the end of each MLS Season, with the expansion clubs at the top of the order.
Ciman played three seasons for the Montreal Impact and was named MLS Defender of the Year and to the MLS Best XI in 2015. He was traded to expansion LAFC ahead of the 2018 season and later sold to Dijon.
He was selected to the MLS all-star game in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Ciman left LAFC in late August, saying the move to France was the best for his family’s future.
Prior to coming to MLS in 2015, Ciman spent eight seasons in Belgium’s top division (with Charleroi, Club Brugge and Standard Liege) and has played 20 times for Belgium’s senior national team.
Ciman made US$661,667 in 2018 with LAFC, according to the MLS Players Association.
FC Cincinnati now has five selections in next month’s MLS SuperDraft, including the No. 1 overall pick. The draft choice traded by Toronto is the 30th over all.