Steve Carrillo

Ashley Cole isn’t Joking About the Galaxy

The English standout says he would like to return, but will the Galaxy listen?

CARSON, Calif — “I want to be here,” LA Galaxy defender Ashley Cole told reporters after the club’s 3-0 victory over Minnesota United FC on Sunday at StubHub Center.

“There’s going to be a big change with the club, and I think maybe it will happen next season. If I’m in those plans, we’ll find out.”

Cole is nearing the end of his second season with the Galaxy after an illustrious career that included time spent with English powers Arsenal and Chelsea and Italian side AS Roma. Since joining the Galaxy before the 2016 season, Cole has appeared in 57 games (including 56 starts) and amassed more than 4,900 minutes. He’s even added two goals and two assists — not bad for a defender.

“I love the game. I want to stop when my heart finishes.” Ashley Cole, LA Galaxy Defender

And throughout what has been a miserable 2017 season for the five-time MLS Cup champions, he’s been a calm, veteran influence on a team that has lacked leadership and a professional compass.

But time is ticking away for the English left back. He’ll turn 37 in December, and even he acknowledged he’s playing on borrowed time, even if he doesn’t know how much of it remains in his playing career.

“I don’t want to put a number on it,” he said when asked how many more years he’d like to play. “I’m just disappointed we’re losing, but I want to keep going until my legs actually give out. Thankfully they haven’t given up just yet.

“My legs feel OK. Maybe the head feels a little bit tired, but I’m enjoying football whether we win or lose.

“I love the game. I want to stop when my heart finishes.”

Cole recently acknowledged exclusively to CoG that he’s already in contract talks with the club.

“I’m speaking to them (LA Galaxy). We’ll see,” he said. “But for sure I’m going to play one more year somewhere.”

For Cole and the Galaxy, it promises to be a long offseason. With their final game this Sunday in Frisco, Texas against FC Dallas and preseason training not starting until mid-January, there’s a potential for a 2 ½-month layoff from the game.

Cole didn’t appear to be concerned about the break.

“Yeah, it’s long. But hopefully, I’ll find a few gardens to clean. A few friends to take around the park,” he quipped with reporters. “I’m happy I get to spend a little bit longer with my son and get ready for next season.”

It’s a complete turnaround from when Cole first was announced as a Galaxy target by then-general manager and head coach Bruce Arena, who persuaded the English legend to join the club for well below his market value at $327,000 a year. Even a $50,000 raise between 2016 and 2017 seems like a pittance for a man who has 107 English national team appearances and a Champions League trophy to his credit.

But before he ever stepped on the field for the Galaxy, there were questions about his age, fitness, and commitment to a league he once jokingly compared to retiring on a beach.

Cole probably would acknowledge he might have lost a step or two, but his calm demeanor on the ball has done well to translate to younger players such as Dave Romney, Daniel Steres or Bradley Diallo to eventually take over as elite defenders in Major League Soccer.

Cole may have joked about the league at one point, but he’s made no jokes about wanting to stay in Los Angeles and enjoying his time with the Galaxy. But he admitted the steady stream of losses in 2017 have taken a toll.

“It’s kind of a first experience for me,” Cole said. “So it’s been difficult to kind of get through this season. But now, for me, I just try to look forward to next season because this season was a disaster.”

Cole clearly has been one of the Galaxy’s few bright spots in 2017, and it’s not unfair to say it’s a shame the club has wasted the last years of his career. He probably deserves to be on a better team with more of a spotlight on him.

Why isn’t Cole the face of this team? Why isn’t he the captain of a ship looking for a rudder? The simple answer is he seems to enjoy not being the center of attention for the media. His rocky relationship with the British press no doubt left him cautious with the American view of the sport.

But in the last few months, he’s been a voice of reason. And listening to Cole – not to mention re-signing him — might be the first step in the right direction as the Galaxy look to rebuild into a competitive entity.

Regardless, Cole isn’t joking anymore. He wants to stay.

“I want to be here,” he said. “We’re speaking. It’s in (the Galaxy’s) court with me.”

And besides, as one reporter offered to Cole, “You can’t beat the weather.”

Cole smiled and responded, “And the beaches.”