Suspended Van Damme stirs doubts about future
Galaxy captain wants to go back to Belgium, report says, but team intends to keep him.
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 mls.com. “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.
JELLE VAN DAMME, who is suspended for two games, has had an uneven season for Galaxy.