Sus­pended Van Damme stirs doubts about fu­ture

Galaxy cap­tain wants to go back to Bel­gium, re­port says, but team in­tends to keep him.

Los Angeles Times - - SOCCER - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­ Twit­ter: @kbax­ter11

With his trans­fer pa­per­work com­pleted and his im­mi­gra­tion doc­u­ments in order, Jonathan dos San­tos, the new­est ad­di­tion to the Galaxy ros­ter, will be in uni­form for Sun­day morn­ing’s cru­cial Western Con­fer­ence show­down with the Port­land Tim­bers (11 a.m., ESPN, ESPN De­portes).

The same can’t be said of cap­tain Jelle Van Damme. The Bel­gian de­fender is sus­pended for the next two matches, the first for yel­low­card ac­cu­mu­la­tion and the sec­ond af­ter draw­ing his third red card of the sea­son in last month’s draw with Seat­tle.

And given Van Damme’s com­ments ahead of last week’s MLS All-Star game, he seems torn over whether he wants to re­turn at all.

Van Damme, half­way through his sec­ond sea­son in the U.S., has split with his wife, Elke Cli­jsters, a for­mer ten­nis player. The breakup has cost him time with son Cruz, 7, and daugh­ter Cleo, 6, who re­main in Bel­gium.

“I just want to go back,” Van Damme told “My team knows the sit­u­a­tion. [The Galaxy] al­ways re­spected my sit­u­a­tion and they helped me out wher­ever they could. But I feel the sec­ond year is get­ting harder and harder.”

Bel­gium me­dia out­let HLN Sport said Royal An­twerp has of­fered Van Damme a two-year deal to come home, but the Galaxy an­swered by say­ing the two-time All-Star isn’t for sale.

“He is stay­ing,” team Pres­i­dent Chris Klein said. “He is un­der con­tract with us and our in­ten­tion is to keep him.”

Van Damme has had an un­even sea­son with the Galaxy (6-10-5). At times he’s been a vo­cal and in­spi­ra­tional leader for a young team in need of di­rec­tion; he’s also been reck­less and out of con­trol, earn­ing eight yel­low cards and three sus­pen­sions, both league highs.

“It is what is it,” said Sigi Sch­mid, who re­placed the fired Curt Onalfo as coach 11 days ago. “He’s a great player. And we’ve got to make sure we keep him on the field a lit­tle bit more than he’s been.”

Sch­mid sidestepped a ques­tion about Van Damme’s ru­mored de­par­ture.

“I don’t worry about those things,” he said. “You hear things all the time and if you want to drive your­self crazy, you read all that stuff.”

Van Damme isn’t the only de­fender Sch­mid will be miss­ing Sun­day in a game the Galaxy can’t af­ford to lose if they hope to stay in the play­off race. Bradley Diallo is also sus­pended for yel­low-card ac­cu­mu­la­tion, and there are few good choices for re­place­ments. Ver­sa­tile Dave Rom­ney missed the last game be­cause of a balky ham­string and may still not be 100%. Be­hind him are rook­ies Nathan Smith and Hugo Arel­lano and mid­fielder Jer­maine Jones.

Sun­day’s kick­off was moved up two hours, to 11 a.m., in an ef­fort to avoid a heat wave that could drive tem­per­a­tures on Port­land’s ar­ti­fi­cial­turf field above 100 de­grees.

The Galaxy en­tered the game rid­ing a six-game win­less streak in MLS play, al­though their five road wins lead the league. And they haven’t lost in Port­land since Septem­ber 2013.

As for Dos San­tos, de­lays in his pa­per­work pre­vented him from train­ing with the Galaxy, mak­ing it un­likely he will start against the Tim­bers.

Ringo H.W. Chiu As­so­ci­ated Press

JELLE VAN DAMME, who is sus­pended for two games, has had an un­even sea­son for Galaxy.

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