Laurent Ciman ready to be difference maker in next chapter with TFC

Ali Curtis joins The Jeff Blair Show to talk about some of the issues TFC ran into the past few seasons and discussions with players to figure out how the team will learn from past mistakes and build a winner in 2019.

TORONTO — Laurent Ciman bled blue when he played for the Montreal Impact.

The Belgian defender won plaudits from Impact fans for his uncompromising play, earning the nickname ‘The General’ during his three-season stint in Montreal. He was also named MLS defender of the year in 2015.

But now Ciman, 33, is proud to wear red after joining Toronto FC this off-season following a move from French side FC Dijon.

"I had a great time in Montreal. I still respect all the fans there, but I’m red now, and I’ll give all that I can for the city of Toronto," Ciman told local reporters this week as TFC’s pre-season training camp opened.

Ciman could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of remedying TFC’s ailing defence. Last season, the Reds, beset by defensive injuries, gave up a franchise-worst 64 goals. But Ciman didn’t think that was an honest reflection of Toronto’s defensive strengths.

"Last year, they had too many injuries, and it was difficult for the team. This year is a new year and the team is ready," Ciman said.

That’s music to the ears of fellow centre-back Drew Moor, who missed significant portions of the 2018 MLS campaign through a number of injury problems.

"I think the addition of Laurent is huge for me personally, for all the centre-backs and for the club," Moor stated.

"[He offers] a little something different from what most centre-backs have to offer. He’s fantastic on the ball, he’s a natural leader. A lot of guys look up to him and will rely on his presence on the field."

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore has gone up against Ciman before in MLS, and he’s looking forward to having the tough-as-nails defender as a teammate.

"He’s difficult to play against. Very good on the ball. It’s a huge addition for us. … He knows he’s going to help us. You can see the energy in him already, he can taste it," Altidore offered.

Fellow forward Sebastian Giovinco concurs: "An amazing player. A very good defender. He can play with the ball, so for us, he’s an important piece."

Montreal traded Ciman to the expansion Los Angeles FC in Dec. 2017 where he played under coach Bob Bradley. Now that he’s with TFC, the Belgian will be a teammate of captain Michael Bradley, his former coach’s son.

"I enjoyed playing for his father, and I can’t wait to play for [Michael]," Ciman said.

The Belgian left LAFC last summer to join Dijon, but decided to leave the Ligue 1 side and return to MLS because of a private family matter. Ciman didn’t offer any details, saying only he has no issues with Dijon.

The addition of Ciman means TFC is now flush at the centre back spot – a starting back line of the Belgian, Chris Mavinga, and Drew Moor is a tantalizing proposition. Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund, both 26 years old, can also fill in at centre back.

“A lot of experience, a lot of leadership, a lot of quality,” coach Greg Vanney said Wednesday. “They’re all slightly different players, but they’re all very good at what they do and the way they do it.”

Hamilton, Endoh signed by Toronto FC

Toronto FC announced Wednesday that it has signed midfielder Tsubasa Endoh and forward Jordan Hamilton to new contracts.

Hamilton, a 22-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont., has made 51 appearances in all competitions for TFC, scoring 10 goals and tallying five assists. Hamilton originally joined with the senior team in 2014, becoming the ninth player in club history to sign from the team’s youth academy. Hamilton’s contract expired at the end of 2018.

Endoh, 25, played with the TFC II farm club in the USL last season. He was originally selected ninth overall by Toronto FC out of the University of Maryland in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. In two MLS seasons with the Reds, Endoh made 30 appearances with three goals and one assist.

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