Impact sign Belgian international defender Laurent Ciman to one-year extension

Impact sign Belgian international defender Laurent Ciman to one-year extension

Montreal Impact’s Laurent Ciman celebrates after scoring against Real Salt Lake during first half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Saturday, May 16, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

MONTREAL — Laurent Ciman is happy, and that has Montreal Impact management smiling as well.

The Major League Soccer club announced Friday that Ciman was given a one-year contract extension that will keep him in Montreal through the 2018 season.

The 30-year-old Belgian international was MLS defender of the year and was named to the league’s best 11 in his first season with the Impact in 2015.

“We’re trying to build stability and he showed last year he’s an important part of the team,” said technical director Adam Braz. “What I like is that he’s happy in terms of the soccer side, his family’s happy in their life in the city and they wanted to extend the deal and wanted to be here.”

Good central defenders are perhaps the hardest thing to find in MLS and the Impact had a gem fall into their laps when Ciman left his hometown club, Standard Liege, and moved to Montreal so his four-year-old daughter could enter a special program to treat autism.

He quickly became the general of the Impact’s back line.

“In terms of the style we want to play, he’s able to comfortably play out of the back under pressure,” said Braz. “He’s able to beat lines with passes, whether it’s on the ground or switching the point of attack.

“His ability to understand big game situations is a plus. The better the team becomes, the more big game situations we’re going to be in and it’s important to have players who are able to play under that kind of pressure.”

Not all went swimmingly last season. In mid-season, his wife complained to a Belgian newspaper that they had to pay dearly for their daughter’s treatment and that the team had reneged on its promises, but the problem was sorted out.

“I like it here, my family likes it here, that’s what’s important for us,” said Ciman. “And if the sporting side of it is going well too, why not continue?

“I feel good here. People are respectful. I feel appreciated and useful here. It’s a team that wants to grow and wants to get to the top.”

Even better for the Impact is that Ciman does not take one of their three spots for designated players who can earn more than the league’s maximum. The MLS players association listed his 2015 salary at US$370,000 with guaranteed income of $401,666.

However, the Impact could miss their top defender for up to six weeks if he is called to play for Belgium at the June 10-July 10 European Championship in France and if FIFA’s No. 1-ranked squad reached the final. If selected, he would need to be with the Belgian squad about two weeks before the tournament.

He may miss seven or eight Impact games.

Ciman was on the 2014 World Cup squad, but saw no action in Brazil. Belgium is stacked in the central defence with players like Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany.

Coach Mauro Biello said the Impact have depth at the two central defence positions with Victor Cabrera, Wandrille Lefevre and Hassoun Camara.

“We saw last year when he had suspensions or was called up by the national team,” said Biello. “We had Lefevre and Camara fill in and they did well. And now they’ll have another year of experience.”

Notes: Camara is expected to be out two weeks with a hamstring strain. Biello said midfielder Lucas Ontivero has a hip flexor but was kept out of practice mainly because it was on artificial turf. He is to be back on the field when the team moves on to Tampa, Fla. on Monday to play a pre-season tournament.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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