New Montreal Impact head coach Remi Garde and club technical director Adam Braz offered up an explanation for their decision to trade center back Laurent Ciman to LAFC in exchange for Raheem Edwards and Jukka Raitala on Tuesday, telling reporters they feel the move will help cure the team’s defensive issues.
Montreal have struggled defensively in each of the last two seasons. They conceded 58 times in 2017, tied for 17th in MLS. That was a regression from 2016, when they allowed 53 goals, tied for 15th in the league.
“It’s based on images I’ve seen, observations I’ve made with people within the club for a long time,” Garde said in comments translated from French. “It’s an assessment that can be discussed, I understand it. I don’t reduce the Impact defensive issues to only one player, to Laurent Ciman. I’m used to speak about defense, attack and to speak about the team above all. I’ve been told about the defensive issues, I’ve noticed them. Today, it’s one of the actions taken. I understand it’s spectacular, because he’s a player who has given a lot to the team in three years, maybe a bit less during the second half of his tenure.”
Ciman anchored the Impact backline for the past three years, appearing in 85 regular season matches and winning the 2015 MLS Defender of the Year award. The 32-year-old appeared for Belgium at Euro 2016 and appeared in five qualifying matches to help the nation secure a spot in the 2018 World Cup.
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An Impact fan favorite, Ciman moved to Montreal in part to obtain better care for his autistic daughter. On Twitter Tuesday following news of the trade, he retweeted the opinions of Impact fans criticizing the move with his followers.
“I’m not insensitive to the human being behind the player,” said Garde, who was hired in November following the dismissal of Mauro Biello. “We all have our lives impacted by things hard to bear. I’m someone humane and I understand such things. But the first thing I should say is that within the club, for four weeks I’m here, nobody asked me to make my evaluations based on off the field considerations, for Laurent or other players. The assessments are only based on the sporting situation.
“The goal is to try to improve the group. I think it was the second oldest one in MLS: It did great things, I don’t want to deny want they have done before, in CONCACAF and cup competitions. But I’ve been told to start on a new project, with a new momentum. I think this decision, like ones that will follow, are part of a new project."
Braz said the deal was agreed to prior to the Expansion Draft. He talked up both of the Impact’s new acquisitions on the call, particularly the 22-year-old Edwards, who recorded one goal and six assists in 21 appearances for Toronto and is capable of playing left back or left winger.
“I also think when you look at age that’s a factor, as well. Raheem Edwards is really young, has a bright future, a lot of upside and potential and Remi’s done really well in his past with young players and helping them come through,” Braz said. “Raitala is an experienced left back that came into the league with Columbus and showed that he can do well in a new environment and helped Columbus have a good season. So these are two starting points in terms of now how we look at our composition of the squad.”