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Why the Montreal Impact should target Jeff Larentowicz in the first-ever season of MLS free agency

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The Montreal Impact have the best defender in the league in Laurent Ciman. But with the fate of his partner, Victor Cabrera, uncertain, team management may have to look outside of the organization for a suitable central defender to play alongside him. Free agency may prove to be the best option, as the Chicago Fire have declined their option on captain, Jeff Larentowicz.

Didier Drogba talks to Chicago Fire's Jeff Larentowicz after the game on September 23rd, 2015.
Didier Drogba talks to Chicago Fire's Jeff Larentowicz after the game on September 23rd, 2015.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Central defender Victor Cabrera's future with Montreal becomes more and more uncertain with each passing day as MLS teams all around the Impact are starting to make adjustments for the 2016 season. His loan from River Plate in Argentina now over, it appears as though both IMFC and Cabrera are interested in either extending the loan or perhaps purchasing the player outright. But River Plate holds the cards on Cabrera and are in no rush to get a deal done, unlike the Impact who are currently in the midst of the league's first-ever "free agent frenzy."

As the defensive depth chart stands now, Laurent Ciman would likely be paired with a newly re-signed Hassoun Camara and an alternative option in Wandrille Lefevre. Many readers might have the two in reverse order, but the point still stands that these are the two options in the event that Cabrera departs for River Plate. The full-back position is currently occupied by the likes of Donny Toia, Ambroise Oyongo, Eric Miller, and rumors of Ivorian Siaka Tiene.

Most reasonable and impartial MLS fans would admit that a stronger and deeper defensive plan for the 2016 season would include seeing Camara moved either to the wing or one spot down in the central-back depth chart. Victor Cabrera would do just that. But, alas, those in charge of roster management at Stade Saputo should have a contingency plan for the possibility that Cabrera has played his last game in Le Bleu-Blanc-Noir.

Enter Jeff Larentowicz.

Larentowicz had his option declined by the Chicago Fire and is currently a free agent. He played primarily as a centre-back for the team while also wearing the captain's armband in 2015. He has transitioned into being a central defender from having been a central midfielder for the bulk of the beginning of his career, and as such he also occasionally played in a holding midfielder's role for Chicago. Larentowicz earned $271,000 in guaranteed compensation last year, which would have put him behind only Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti, Laurent Ciman, and Nigel Reo-Coker on Montreal's active roster in terms of salary cap hit. It's uncertain whether or not he's in line for any kind of raise, but it's doubtful.

Larentowicz is not just a stable and reliable central defender in MLS, he is also arguably a good partner for Laurent Ciman (which is equally, if not more, important). The two would complement each other well as Larentowicz has traditionally shown skill in man-to-man coverage situations or in "shutting down" opponents' forwards. He does not shy away from physical battles either while still managing to avoid fouling. Moreover, Larentowicz would not required the use of an international roster slot as Cabrera does.

This is opposed to Ciman who has shown that he is more comfortable when allowed to roam and exist outside of the "structure" of the defense. Ciman is at his best when he is independent of the other defenders and should therefore be allowed to do so. Jeff Larentowicz would provide coach Mauro Biello with a solid, if not somewhat expensive, every-day partner for Laurent Ciman.

Of course, the Impact brass may have a hard time negotiating alongside teams that would also be potentially interested in Larentowicz. A native of California, Larentowicz may be targeting American teams. This being said, it is not difficult to imagine the Impact look either at Europe, Africa, or South America for another central defender. But it would be in the interest of the team to acquire such a player before the beginning of the season, and not during the summer transfer window.

What do you think about how Jeff Larentowicz might fit into Montreal's lineup?