NEW YORK – New York City FC bulked up on its defense Thursday as it signed Benin international Cedric Hountondji.

The 23-year-old Hountondji will join City, pending receipt of his P1 visa and International Transfer Certificate.

He became the club’s fifth signing of the offseason, joining Jesus Medina, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Brad Stuver and Anton Tinnerholm.

A former French youth international, Hountondji is a tall, athletic center back who joined the Major League Soccer club as a free agent after his contract with Gazelec Ajaccio came to an end.

City had competition from some other clubs for Hountondji.

“Cedric is a strong player who is dominant aerially and physically, he is excellent in 1 v 1 situations and is calm on the ball as well,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “We were looking to strengthen our back four and Cedric is someone we were following for a long time.

“He’s a young defender with his best years ahead of him and there was a lot of interest in him. I think it says a lot that a young player in Europe wanted to come to us and believes in our project and the ambitions of our football club.”

Cedric was born in Toulouse, France and came through the youth ranks at Ligue 1’s Rennes, making his first-team debut in the 2013-14 season against Nice.

He made 17 appearances in his breakthrough season before he continued his development with two season-long loan spells in Ligue 2, at Chateauroux and Auxerre in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively.

Hountondji played 62 times across the two seasons before joining Gazelec Ajaccio prior to the 2016-17 campaign.

“It’s an honor to be here, I am really happy,” he said. “I am full of motivation and ready to give everything I have for the club.

“When I heard of the interest, I was very excited. I knew about NYCFC because I follow MLS. I don’t always watch the games because of the time difference but I am watching the highlights and sometimes I watch the games when I have the time.

“I followed their progress and I know that the club is progressing year after year and it’s really important. I am not coming here just to live in a great city. I am coming to NYCFC, to the club, to give it my all.”