MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact shook up their backline Tuesday, trading star defender Laurent Ciman to expansion Los Angeles FC for Canadian wingback Raheem Edwards and Finnish defender Jukka Raitala.
In acquiring the Belgian international, LAFC added an experienced centre back to anchor its defence.
“Laurent is a top defender who provides leadership and great distribution,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said in a statement. “His experience in the league and with the Belgian national team will be invaluable as we build our club.”
LAFC had taken Raitala and Edwards in the expansion draft held earlier in the day, Raitala from Columbus with the fourth pick and Edwards from Toronto FC with the fifth.
It was a dizzying day for Edwards, who went from Toronto to Los Angeles to Montreal where he now finds himself a member of Toronto’s biggest rival.
Montreal shed salary in the deal, with the 32-year-old Ciman making US$661,666 this season. The 22-year-old Edwards earned $53,000 and the 29-year-old Raitala $161,670.
“The salary cap plays a part in every move that you make within this league,” Impact technical director Adam Braz told a media conference call. “I also think when you look at age, that’s factor as well.
“Raheem Edwards is really young and has a bright future, a lot of upside and potential. (New coach) Remi (Garde) has done really well in his past with young players, helping them come through. And 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.”
Braz said Raitala would help fill the void left by Ambroise Oyongo’s “probable departure.”
Ciman was MLS defender of the year in 2015. That year, his first in Major League Soccer, the Belgian international was also named to the MLS Best XI and MLS all-star game and was chosen Impact Defensive Player of the Year.
Ciman played 85 MLS games for Montreal, starting 30 matches this season.
Asked if Ciman requested a trade, Braz pointed to past interviews in which the Belgian said he wanted to stay in MLS. He did not elaborate.
Ciman came to Montreal from Belgium’s Standard de Liege. He also played for Brugge, RSC Charleroi and KV Courtai.
Raitala played 28 games, starting 20, in his first season with Columbus this season. He previously played for 1899 Hoffenheim in Germany, Osasuna in Spain and SC Heerenveen in the Netherlands. He has 39 caps for Finland.
Edwards had a breakthrough season with Toronto in 2017, playing 21 games (10 starts) with one goal and six assists. He has two caps for Canada.
“After having analysed the team’s defensive play during the last season, and by relying on internal reports, it seemed important to me to make some adjustments,” Garde said in a statement. “It’s the first change in terms of departures, but other players will get added to the roster in the next few weeks.”
Montreal ranked 16th in the 22-team league this season in goals against, conceding 1.71 goals a game.