Laurent Ciman, fresh from World Cup disappointment, delivers LAFC victory

LOS ANGELES—LAFC defender Laurent Ciman brushed aside whatever disappointment accompanied his departure from Belgium's World Cup squad and delivered another stunning set-piece drive to open an eventual 2-0 triumph Saturday night over visiting Columbus Crew SC.

Any concern that the veteran center back might be out of sorts after leaving Russia ahead of the Red Devils' opener was answered just four minutes in to Saturday's club match, when he blistered a ball from 35 yards that bent inside the right post.

That's three such goals he's tallied this season – set-piece strikes from at least 30 yards – and if LAFC coach Bob Bradley thought he knew what he was getting when he acquired Ciman last December, he was wrong.

“We knew we were getting a leader, a guy in the back who could help us be a team that could play from the back,” Bradley said after the Banc of California Stadium triumph boosted LAFC (8-4-3) within two points of second-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference. “The part of his free kicks has been a great surprise. In certain situations, he's capable of coming up with something that's different. It's been a great plus.”

Adama Diomande added a second goal in the seventh minute, and LAFC denied Columbus many decent looks with a superb defensive performance in midfield and at the back.

Ciman, 32, was the final cut from Belgium's roster after manager Roberto Martinez decided to stick with ailing Manchester City center back Vincent Kompany, and Ciman returned to Southern California earlier in the week. He was ready to go.

“I'm a person who's able to turn the page very quickly,” Ciman said in French during the postgame news conference. “I'm in the right club, I'm in the right place … It's very easy to come back here and get right into things.

“I enjoyed my time with the national team. Of course, I was disappointed I couldn't stay, but I understand that things like that happen in soccer. I was happy to come back and get going right away. I told Bob I was ready to go.”

He showed how ready after Benny Feilhaber was fouled by Lalas Abubakar about 17 yards beyond Columbus' box.

“It's crazy,” Feilhaber said. “The odds of scoring a goal from 30-40 yards can't be that high, and he's scored three already this year, with a couple that almost went in as well. We love those opportunities we get for him.

“I don't expect him to keep this kind of rate up, but it's pretty special to be able to get that kind of shot on target and see what happens.”

Ciman is watching Belgium closely at the World Cup and is confident the Red Devils, who have posted three-goal victories over Panama and Tunisia and finish Group H play Thursday against England, can do well.

“Belgium [will] win the World Cup,” he said in English. “That's it. That's it.”

Then he switched back to French.

“Until now, it's the team that has shown more consistency and answered in the best way. Teams like Brazil, Germany, England, Argentina started a little bit in a shaky way. Belgium, it's true, has played two nations that aren't as big in the soccer world. but Belgium has players that are important that aren't even starting.

“We're a strong nation, and I am with them. I am still with the squad, even if I'm here.”

Stay connected: The all-new, completely redesigned, FREE official MLS app is your best mobile source for scores, news, analysis and highlights. Download:  App Store  |  Google Play