The Los Angeles Galaxy have added 33-year-old left back and Center Back Jelle Van Damme, formerly of Standard Liege, who played in the Belgian Pro League. Per the club press release this signing was made using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). Van Damme had been with Les Rouches for the past five and half seasons.
At Standard, the veteran defender finished second in the league on two separate occasions (2010-11, 2013-14) and competed in either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League in his last four seasons with his previous club. He has been a stalwart for his former club, appearing in over 200 league matches at either the central defender position or the left back spot in the starting eleven, scoring 22 times.
“Jelle (Van Damme) is an experienced, talented defender who will strengthen our back line. He joins our team with a wealth of experience playing at the highest levels of competition in the world. We look forward to adding him to our roster.” Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager
However, he first busted onto the scene at 22 years of age for Anderlecht – one of the most well-known clubs in the nation. Here is where Van Damme won his silverware. In two consecutive seasons, the Belgian completed the double with the purple and whites.
Van Damme is not only a presence at the club level, but has appeared in the Belgian national team. He has appeared in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, which will give the Galaxy much needed experience in either the center of the defense or the left side.
Standing at 6’4”, the defender will not back down from any challenge. He will use his physicality to impose himself on any player on the opposing team to try and win the ball back for his side.
While there has not been much celebration after finding the back of the net, Van Damme can be a threat in the final third of the pitch. His height is also an advantage inside the eighteen yard box. Van Damme is able to leap above a defender off a free kick or a corner. He has a wicked left foot as well and when can be lethal from anywhere around the area.
But his talent doesn’t come without controversy. Van Damme featured in a 2009 incident between himself and out-of-favor USMNT player Oguchi Onyewu. In this incident, Van Damme is accused of calling Onyewu a derogatory name during a match between their two teams (From Yanks Abroad).
When speaking after the match Van Damme stated (from Nick Bidwell at WorldSoccer.com Read More): “He (Onyewu) 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.”
Regardless of the accusations, for the on-the-field-product, the big question remains: Where Jelle Van Damme will be placed in the starting eleven? He is talented at two different positions, and center back is probably the biggest position of need. However, his experience on the international stage will be vital in helping the younger players on the roster develop as the season wears on.
But like many players, how he fits into the culturally diverse locker room may actually determine what success he has at the club.
Per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.