According to Belgium news outlet Sudinfo.com, defender Jelle Van Damme and his club Standard Liège have reached an agreement to allow their captain to leave the historic Belgium club. The 32-year-old now has the green light to head for Los Angeles.
Now with Van Damme in the clear, the Los Angeles Galaxy are on the verge of bringing the Belgium international to Major League Soccer (MLS), according to ESPN FC. By signing the six-foot-three-inches defender, LA’s Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena now has an option to replace USMNT center back Omar Gonzalez.
After the Galaxy’s defense broke down towards the ending of the 2015 MLS regular season and in the playoffs, Arena has gone for experience to rebuild the back line.
Only two days ago, the Los Angeles Times reported that former English international left back Ashley Cole (35-years-old) had just become a free agent after AS Roma bought the remainder of his contract. With Roma out of the way, the Galaxy moved fast and now it appears the signing of Cole to the Galaxy will most likely happen on Tuesday.
Van Damme carries 15-years of experience at the club level, plus he has been representing the senior Belgium national team since 2003. He was even recently called up by the Red Devils last year during the Euro 2016 qualifications.
During his years as a professional the defender has been a traveling man when it comes to clubs. Van Damme has played in seven different teams located in four different countries in Europe.
He has played in his native Belgium for 10-years of his career. The teams were: Beerschot AC (2001-2002), RSC Anderlecht (2006-2010) and Standard (2011-Present). England was the second country Van Damme spent the most time. The 32-year-old competed for two clubs: Southampton F.C. (2004-2006) and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (2010-2011).
He was in the Netherlands for two year, playing for historic Dutch side, AFC Ajax (2002-2004). The Belgium international also played in Germany briefly. When Southampton was relegated to the Championship, he spent the 2005-2006 season with SV Werder Bremen on loan.
However, most of his success came while playing in his home country. He made a combined total of 324 appearances between the three clubs he played for in Belgium. While at Anderlecht and Standard, he managed to score a total of 39 times as a defender.
If Van Damme comes to LA he will be the 27th player on the roster. However, if Cole is also announced to the club in the coming days then the Belgium international will be the 28th player. Since the roster limit for an MLS club is 28 that will make the 32-year-old the final signing for the first team this offseason, unless a player is cut or sold from the Galaxy.
Neither Standard nor the Galaxy has announced the amount Van Damme will leave Belgium for. However, the only thing that is certain is that the 32-year-old will not be a designated player (DP) for the five-time MLS Cup champions. Since all three DP spots for LA are currently not available.
However, to American fans Van Damme is a controversial figure. In 2009 the Belgium international was sued by former U.S.. center back Oguchi Onyewu for saying a racial slur.
Onyewu said that in the middle of a playoff game, Van Damme called him a “dirty monkey.” The 32-year-old who was playing for Anderlecht at the time denied the allegation.
According to WorldSoccer.com, He responded to the accusation by saying: “[Oguchi Onyewu] He said that? Then he’s a liar. Onyewu called me “dirty Flemish” several times. This has been blown out of all proportion. On the pitch there’s a lot of nervousness and many things are said in the heat of the moment. I think supporters understand intimidation is part of the game. Of course, there are limits to it. I want to make it clear I’m definitely not a racist.”
However, in the end Van Damme was sued and the lawyer of Onyewu, Jean-Louis Dunpont later said about the incident.
“[Oguchi Onyewu] was convinced it was his duty to lodge the complaint,” Dupont told the New York Times. “It is not a question whether Van Damme is racist. The issue is that these slurs are still used on the pitch, and are being used because they know it hurts.”
So if the move goes through and Van Damme becomes the newest signing of the Galaxy, Arena will need to do his best to shake that image from American fans. The topic of racism is a heated and delicate one in the United States, and the last thing the Galaxy need is to lose their fan base over this.