The LA Galaxy officially landed one of their widely reported offseason targets on Tuesday, when the club announced that it had signed 32-year-old Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme.
Van Damme was acquired using Targeted Allocation Money and will occupy an international slot on LA’s roster. Per league and club policy, additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Van Damme joins LA from Belgian club Standard Liege. He joined Standard Liege in 2011, eventually serving as captain of the club and recording 22 goals and 27 assists in 205 appearances with the team. Capable of playing as a left back, left wing or center back, Van Damme has also played with Belgian clubs Germinal Beerschot and Anderlecht, English sides Southampton and Wolverhampton, German team Werder Bremen and Dutch giants Ajax.
“Jelle is an experienced, talented defender who will strengthen our back line,” LA Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena said in a statement. “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.”
Van Damme began his professional career in 2001 with Germinal Beerschot, then moved to Ajax in 2002. He made 22 appearances for the Amsterdam club, helping the team to the 2003-04 Dutch title and featuring in the UEFA Champions League.
He went on brief loan spells to Southampton and Werder Bremen while at Ajax, before eventually returning to Belgium with Anderlecht in 2006. He won two Belgian league titles, a pair of Belgian Cup crowns and two more Belgian Super Cup titles with Anderlecht, and added 18 goals and 23 assists in his four years with the club.
Van Damme’s acquisition followed an investigation — first reported by Fox Soccer’s Kyle McCarthy — that was conducted by both the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer into a 2009 incident involving former US international Oguchi Onyewu, who alleged racist remarks were directed at him by Van Damme during a Belgian league match between Onyewu’s Standard Liege and Van Damme’s Anderlecht. The club confirmed that Galaxy manager Bruce Arena spoke to both Van Damme and Onyewu before the Galaxy signed the defender.
Van Damme has made 31 appearances for the Belgian national team, last appearing for the team in 2013.
He’s the third defender signed by LA this offseason, joining former Chicago Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz and ex-Galaxy II defender Daniel Steres on the Galaxy roster. Defenders Omar Gonzalez (transfer to Pachuca), Todd Dunivant (retirement) and Tommy Meyer (option declined) left LA this winter. Defender Ashley Cole and midfielder Nigel de Jong have both been repeatedly linked to LA this winter, as well.