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Soccer

LAFC hopes Laurent Ciman’s return will ease the loss of three players at World Cup

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29, 2018 - LAFC player Laurent Ciman acknowledges the cheers from the crowd
Laurent Ciman acknowledges cheers from the crowd after scoring the game-winning goal against the Seattle Sounders in LAFC’s first game at Banc of California Stadium.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Laurent Ciman hasn’t played for Los Angeles Football Club since the team’s draw against D.C. United on May 26. The veteran center back was with the Belgian national team preparing for the World Cup. Now he’s back, and he’ll be tasked with helping LAFC score another victory while three of its players remain overseas.

Ciman was the last player cut by Belgium, and he’s expected to return to action for LAFC (7-3-4) when it hosts Columbus (7-6-4) on Saturday at Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC could use his help with leading goal scorer Carlos Vela of Mexico playing in the World Cup along with forward Marco Ureña (Costa Rica) and defender Omar Gaber (Egypt).

LAFC is coming off a 3-2 win over United Soccer League team Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday to advance to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Saturday’s match against Columbus will be the team’s first MLS game since its 4-3 comeback win over San Jose on June 9.

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“We don’t overlook the positives,” coach Bob Bradley said this week of his team’s win against San Jose, “but I think … everybody knows it wasn’t our best game.”

He’s hoping LAFC manages better passes and better positioning against Columbus. Especially with a familiar face for L.A. soccer fans lurking on the opposing side.

Columbus’ Gyasi Zardes spent the first five seasons of his MLS career with the Galaxy before signing with Columbus this offseason. Since the switch, he’s played like a new man.

The 26-year-old leads his team with 10 goals, which are six more than second-place Federico Higuain. Zardes is also tied for the second-most goals in MLS.

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He eclipsed double-digit MLS goals only once with the Galaxy when he scored 16 in 2014. But that was in 32 games. So far this season, he’s played in 17.

Bradley said the uptick in production is due to the different way Columbus uses him.

“At the Galaxy, he didn’t play striker all the time,” Bradley explained. “Now he’s playing as a striker.”

Defender Walker Zimmerman said LAFC is focused on trying to limit Zardes.

“We’re gonna have to be really aware of where he is in the box,” Zimmerman said

ethan.bauer@latimes.com

@ebaueri


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