MLS Defensive Player of the Week: Week 1 – LAFC stalwart leads by example

For every week of the 2018 MLS season, MLSGB will award two Player of the Week accolades to the previous gameweek’s standout performers. We will highlight one star attacking player, as well as the leading defensive performer from the last round of fixtures. The Attacking Player of the Week award can be won by strikers, wingers and advanced midfielders. While the Defensive Player of the Week award can be won by goalkeepers, defenders and defensive midfielders.

It doesn’t come as a huge surprise that our defensive pick of the week comes from Los Angeles FC‘s stunning away win over Seattle Sounders. They become just the second expansion side to win their first away game in Major League Soccer history.

LAFC’s 1-0 saw an impressive collective performance. They were clean and simple on the ball and defended well when they didn’t have possession, as well as welcoming a little bit of good fortune at times.

A standout performance at the heart of the LAFC defence came from Lauren Ciman. The 2015 Defender of the Year has plenty of MLS experience under his belt and he remained calm at all times of the game. He made crucial blocks and chose to bring the backline up to press at the right time, while marshalling them to drop back and clear their lines when it was necessary.

How did Laurent Ciman perform in numbers? 

Ciman played the full 90 minutes as you’d expect from a centre half. In that time he made four interceptions to stop attacks, blocked two shots including a close-range effort, made six clearances and held a positive 75% pass accuracy.

His crucial block from a goal-bound Harry Shipp kept the score at 1-0 in the first half, which was a game-changing phase of play. Had Seattle scored at that point to level things it could have swung the momentum out of LAFC’s favour.

https://twitter.com/JogaBonito_USA/status/970434433940643840

Don’t miss – MLS Attacking Player of the Week: Week 1

Ciman’s performance was exactly what was needed from him as a captain and the LAFC faithful will be hoping to see that continue on a weekly basis. A thoroughly good, history making weekend for the MLS new comers and one for the fans to remember.

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2018 Key Transfers: Montreal Impact

With the 2018 MLS season edging closer with each day, we are running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Montreal Impact and their key moves ahead of their second MLS campaign in 2018…

Key Signings

Raheem Edwards: Canadian international Edwards is a versatile left sided prodigy. After a breakthrough season last season with Canadian rivals and MLS Cup champions Toronto he was picked up by LAFC in the expansion draft, only to traded to Montreal immediately. Two caps for his country last year were well deserved and he will look to push on this coming season.

Michael Petrasso: Young wing-back Petrasso started out at the Toronto academy before a move to Queens Park Rangers in 2013. After numerous loan spells and frustration with playing time, he has moved back to the great white north. Toronto-born Petrasso is also a Canadian international and a move back to his native land may spark a career yet to really get going.

Saphir Taider: The former Saints Loanee (if only for a month) has yet to reach his potential. As a young 17 year old he put in some very impressive displays playing for Grenoble in France. After two stints with Bologna sandwiched between a spell at Inter Milan, he has made the move to MLS. And at only 25, he still has a lot of life in his career.

Notable Departures

Laurent Ciman: Perhaps the biggest loss to an MLS club this year is Belgian stallwault Ciman. In three seasons with Montreal he has time and again proved to be one of the greatest MLS defenders. He was moved to new franchise LAFC in a surprise trade following the expansion draft, with Raheem Edwards and Jukka Raitala moving to the Impact. He will be a big loss.

Hernan Bernardello: Argentine international Bernardello has finished his second stint in Montreal after only one season. In the two spells at the Canadian franchise he has amassed 53 matches but only registered a single goal. The 31-year-old midfielder started 17 regular season games last term and has since joined Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland.

Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla: Perhaps a worrying sign for not only Montreal but the league as a whole. The 18 year old Tabla is a prospect from the Montreal academy, and has moved to FC Barcelona. For such a young talent to leave the league before really showing what he can do is a potential concern. The move is great for the young forward, but begs the question why MLS is struggling to keep hold of their own young talent.

2018 Key Transfers: LAFC

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at the league’s newest side, Los Angeles FC and their key signings ahead of their inaugural MLS campaign in 2018…

Los Angeles FC are entering the league as the 23rd franchise competing for glory in MLS in 2018. Led by the experienced Bob Bradley, many are expecting LAFC to make their mark in the West as they try and become the first expansion franchise to life the MLS Cup since Chicago did it in 1998. Oh, and Chicago were coached by Bob Bradley then too. Realistically, the expectation will be to make the playoffs at the first time of asking and establish a play style. The club have been busy building the squad from scratch. Two Designated Players have been signed, some big trades have been made and the club got two of the first three SuperDraft picks after trading DC for the third spot. Below we have highlighted the standout signings that we expect to make the biggest impact with LAFC in 2018.

Carlos Vela: LAFC brought in Vela from Real Sociedad as their first ever Designated Player. The Mexican star had been with Sociedad since 2011, where he scored over 50 goals in seven years for the La Liga side. Before that, he was with Arsenal, where he struggled to make a proper impact. But after 12 years in Europe, Vela has now made the move to LAFC, where he will be much closer to his friends and family. Reports in Spain suggested the transfer offer for Vela was around €5 million, and he will be expected to be the expansion franchise’s star man in 2018.

Walker Zimmerman: LAFC made a strong move to sign 24-year-old centre-back Zimmerman from FC Dallas in early December. The expansion franchise sent $500,000 in allocation money and the #1 allocation ranking to Dallas for the defender. He has played 89 regular season games over the past five seasons and knows the league well. He missed time last season with a knee injury but is back and ready to help LAFC make their make in their debut campaign. Laurent Ciman: Alongside Zimmerman will be veteran Belgium international defender Ciman. He arrived from Montreal after LAFC sent Expansion Draft picks Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards to the Canadian side. Ciman was apparently left shocked at the trade as he knew nothing about it until he was already an LAFC player. But the 2015 MLS Defender of the Year is now looking forward to working with Zimmerman to become the best central defence partnership in the league.

 

Diego Rossi: Rossi was signed as LAFC’s second Designated Player and is expected to play as an inverted winger in the left side of the attack. He is a highly regarded Uruguayan youngster who was brought in for a reported $4 million from Penarol of Uruguay’s Primera Division. At just 19, Rossi has a lot of potential and is the second youngest DP in MLS history, after Fabian Castillo who joined Dallas aged 18.

Benny Feilhaber: At 33, Feilhaber is unlikely to be able to offer what he did in 2015 when he was an MVP finalist. But he should still be a valuable and vital player for LAFC following his move from Sporting KC. The midfielder played 180 times for SKC, scoring 33 goals and picking up 56 assists. Lots Angeles FC sent $400,000 in allocation money for his services. He will likely end up playing as the team’s number 10, finding gaps in behind the opposition defence for the likes of Rossi and Vela to run into.

Montreal Impact make history with dramatic late goal against Pachuca

The Montreal Impact have done it. They’ve made history by becoming the first Canadian club to beat Mexican opposition over two legs in the CONCACAF Champions League as they booked their place in the semifinals of the competition.

Pachuca travelled to Canada to take on Montreal last night in the second-leg of their quarterfinal clash after the first-leg ended 2-2 in Mexico last week. 38,104 supporters were in attendance for the game as the Impact made history in fine style.

Pachuca took the lead on 80 minutes as German Cano slotted a penalty into the bottom left of Evan Bush’s goal after he was fouled in the box by Laurent Ciman.

The Mexican side must have thought they’d done enough but the Impact weren’t reading the same script as rookie Cameron Porter tucked home the equaliser in the 94th minute, sending Montreal through on the away goals rule.

Great look at the Cameron Porter goal (via Montreal Impact on YouTube):

The stadium erupted as Porter wheeled away in celebration with his name instantly stamped into Montreal Impact folklore. The 21-year-old forward was selected in the third round of this year’s MLS SuperDraft and he couldn’t have even dreamed of scoring a goal so important for his first professional club.

The game ended 1-1 with an aggregate score of 3-3 as Montreal became just the second MLS team, after the Seattle Sounders, to beat Mexican opposition in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Highlights of last night’s game (via CONCACAF on YouTube):

Montreal were the worst side in Major League Soccer last season as they finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference but 2015 is looking a lot better already, before the regular season has even started.

They will now face the winner of tonight’s quarterfinal between Costa Rican side Alajuelense and the only other remaining MLS side, DC United in two weeks’ time.

Don’t miss: CCL Preview and Prediction: DC United vs Alajuelense

Alajuelense won the first-leg 5-2 last week and DC United have a real mountain to climb if they are to advance in front of their own fans tonight.

The Montreal Impact live to fight another day and will now have genuine hopes of becoming the first MLS club to lift the CONCACAF Champions League this year.

Huge amounts of praise has been given to the Impact after last night’s incredible achievement and even US Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann enjoyed watching Montreal advance.

Can the Montreal Impact win the CONCACAF Champions League this year?

MLS News Roundup – Thursday January 22

There’s been a lot going on in the world of Major League Soccer over the past 24 hours so it’s a good time to round up all the news in one place.

Six of the 20 MLS clubs return to preseason training today and the 2015 season is drawing ever closer.

Here are the top stories you need to know about:

1) Colorado Rapids will host the 2015 MLS All-Star Game

The MLS All-Stars are going back to Denver for the second time ever as the Colorado Rapids’ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will host the 2015 game. Rapids coach Pablo Maestroni will coach a team of stars that is likely to include new faces Kaka and David Villa to name just a couple. An opponent has not yet been named but we’re expecting a big name as Chelsea, AS Roma and Bayern Munich have taken on the All-Stars in the past three seasons.

2) Michael Bradley says MLS free agency is worth a player strike if it comes to it

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Major League Soccer is currently in negotiations with the MLS Players’ Union over a new collective bargaining agreement as the current one is set to expire at the end of the month. One of the key issues being discussed is player free agency and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley has said it is an issue worth going on strike over, if an agreement cannot be reached.

“We want what’s best for the league, we want to help this league grow and continue to push forward in every possible way,” Bradley said. “But it is time for some changes in the way that things are done and I think that in the end we’ll find a good way to get all that done.”

3) Michael Essien on FC Dallas radar but midfielder rejects first offer

AC Milan midfielder Michael Essien is set to move again. His current contract expires at the end of the season and Milan are not willing to offer him a new deal. The former Chelsea man does not want to return to the Premier League and is keen on a switch to MLS. FC Dallas have made an offer to the Ghanaian but he has reportedly rejected that.

4) Fabian Espindola rewarded by DC United with Designated Player contract

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Fabian Espindola was arguably DC United’s best player last season and the club have rewarded him for a fine 2014, in which he scored 11 goals and picked up 9 assists, by giving him a Designated Player contract. DC United General Manager Dave Kasper said: “Fabian is coming off his best year in MLS last season and he deserves to be a Designated Player. He is in the prime of his career and we look forward to his future contributions to our club.” However, Espindola won’t be available to play for the first six games of 2015 as he will serve a suspension picked up for pushing an official in the MLS Playoffs.

5) Montreal Impact confirm signing of Belgian international Laurent Ciman

The Montreal Impact have bolstered their defence with the addition of 29-year-old centre-back Laurent Ciman from Standard Liege. Ciman has spent his entire career in Belgium and was a part of the national team’s World Cup squad last summer. Better still, Ciman will not occupy a Designated Player contract in Montreal and he will be a key leader for the team in 2015.

6) Vancouver Whitecaps sign former Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah

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Another Canadian club have made a move to strengthen their backline as the Vancouver Whitecaps have signed Pa Modou Kah. The former Portland Timbers centre-back will bring plenty of experience to the side and head coach Carl Robinson thinks he is an important addition: “Kah is an athletic center back with a wealth of experience, both in MLS and abroad. Not only does he bring experience, but also great character, and that will be equally important to our team.”

7) FC Dallas acquire Toronto FC midfielder Kyle Bekker in trade for allocation money

Toronto FC have parted ways with Canadian midfielder Kyle Bekker as the 24-year-old has joined FC Dallas in exchange for allocation money. Bekker made 29 appearances over two seasons with Toronto after being selected with the third overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.

8) Bradley Wright-Phillips refusing to change despite everything else doing so around him

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A lot has changed in New York since the end of the 2014 season. Thierry Henry has hung up his boots. Mike Petke has been fired and replaced by Jesse Marsch. But Bradley Wright-Phillips won’t be changing, despite the fact that he’ll be playing with the added pressure of a Designated Player contract this year. The 29-year-old tied the MLS single season goalscoring record in 2014 with 27 goals and he’s going to go about things the same way in 2015.

“I had an interview [with the Red Bulls] at the end of the season, I told them, ‘Don’t expect any wonders. You’re going to get what you got from me this season.’ I don’t go into a game without running hard, working hard, trying to score goals. That’s exactly what I’ll do this season,” he said on Tuesday. “If they’re expecting something more, they will be disappointed, I can let you know that now. If you are expecting me to be Thierry Henry, you will be disappointed.”