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LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC add to Galaxy’s misery, win 2-0 in LA

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The game in 100 words (or less): At the risk of making the same mistake two seasons in a row (writing the Seattle Sounders off in early August), it’s time to forget about the LA Galaxy making the playoffs in 2017. Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of New York City FC was their seventh in eight games. Sigi Schmid inherited an absolute mess of a squad, which currently sits nine points out of the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference. Rookie Jonathan Lewis scored the game’s opening goal, his first in MLS, and David Villa added the insurance 15 minutes before full-time, his league-leading 18th of the season. NYCFC leapfrogged the Chicago Fire, who lost on Saturday, for second place in the Eastern Conference and remain four points back of Toronto FC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield (and home-field advantage in the playoffs).

[ MORE: Assessing the top moves of the MLS summer transfer ]

Three moments that mattered

40′ — Johnson makes a reaction save to deny Pele — No, you didn’t read that wrong. (Pele van Anholt, that is.)

54′ — Lewis curls a beauty past Rowe for 1-0 — It’s a wonderful strike by Lewis, but one must acknowledge Jermaine Jones’ flailing challenge which comes up painfully empty as the rookie skates past him and goes for goal.

73′ — Villa curls one past Rowe for 2-0 — We are truly fortunate to follow this league while this player continues to do his thing at this level. He’ll almost certainly become the first back-to-back MVP in MLS history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Lewis (54′), Villa (73′)

MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 3-1 LA Galaxy (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Sunday’s match at Providence Park had it all. A VAR decision cancelled out a goal for the visitors, while the Galaxy saw its newest signing make his debut. Unfortunately for Sigi Schmid’s men, Jonathan dos Santos’ first match didn’t result in three points against the Timbers. The Pacific Northwest side broke the deadlock just five minutes into the match, while Diego Valeri scored one of the best goals you’ll beyond the half hour mark with a blast from distance. Alvas Powell tacked on the last finish for the hosts, while Emmanuel Boateng gave the Galaxy their consolation in the first half.

Three four moments that mattered

11′ — VAR comes into play — The Galaxy thought they had taken the lead, but then VAR stepped in.

33′ — Valeri continues to defy logic — There’s just no chance Brian Rowe was going to save that… or any keeper for that matter.

55′ — Adi dazzles before Powell blasts home — Just in case there was any doubt who was winning the match, Alvas Powell put the Galaxy’s hopes to bed with this scorching strike.

64′ — The other Dos Santos makes his debut — The Galaxy’s fortunes weren’t the best on Sunday, but they did get a look at their newest signing.

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Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Liam Ridgewell (5′), Emmanuel Boateng (6′), Diego Valeri (33′), Alvas Powell (55′)

MLS preview: Contenders clash in NY derby, SKC-ATL, POR-LA

Photo credit: New York Red Bulls - Twitter: @NewYorkRedBulls
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Previewing the three biggest games (all on Sunday) this weekend, the first with video-assistant referee (VAR), in MLS…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls — Sunday, 6 p.m. ET

After ending up on opposite ends of separate 4-0 drubbings last weekend, the Red Bulls enter Sunday’s showdown at Yankee Stadium winners of four straight (and five out of six), far and away their best run of form this season after a torrid time in April and May. NYCFC, meanwhile, find themselves in the midst of indifferent form (just one win from their last four, conceding 10 goals during that stretch) the likes of which they’ve rarely seen this year.

The last time these sides met, a month and a half ago at Red Bull Arena, it was the visitors who ran rampant en route to a 2-0 victory. Since that defeat, the lone loss in five games, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch altered his tactical approach, opting to go with three in the back, a loaded midfield with five bodies surrounding playmaker Sacha Kljestan, and Bradley Wright-Phillips the spearhead beneficiary (three goals in four games) of last year’s assist king (20) having his defensive duties drastically reduced. Wright-Phillips has an unbelievable scoring record in this Hudson River derby, bagging eight goals in seven games against the blue side of New York.

[ MORE: VAR to make its debut this weekend — what can we expect? ]

Sporting Kansas City vs. Atlanta United — Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

The post-Dom Dwyer era got off to a roaring start in KC last week, as Sporting knocked off the red-hot Chicago Fire thanks to an unexpected offensive explosion. With Dwyer no longer in the fold, Peter Vermes’ side is now able to play the expansive, possession-dominant soccer he’s coveted since the arrival of Ilie Sanchez last winter. The foundation remains the league’s best defense, though, (17 goals conceded in 22 games) now that Ike Opara is back from injury (concussion), as are Matt Besler and Graham Zusi following the Gold Cup. The month of August has proven Sporting’s undoing each of the last three years, as injuries and fatigue finally caught up to a hard-worked bunch. Contrary to popular demand, the rationing of minutes remains very heavily weighted toward the squad’s top 14 players.

As for Atlanta, they’ll attack with the same tempo and openness that ultimately proved Chicago’s undoing last week — it’s the only way they know to play, and it’s the reason their tied for most goals this season (41, level with Supporters’ Shield-leading Toronto FC). Unbeaten in five (four wins), Tata Martino’s can push the tempo beyond any opponent’s comfort level, even a control-crazed side like Sporting. In terms of entertaining soccer, this is the game of the weekend.

[ MORE: Miami (finally) close to stadium deal, expansion team ]

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy — Sunday, 2 p.m. ET

Finally, let’s talk about two teams in need of a victory in the worst possible ways. Portland, winners of one of their last eight (four draws), host LA, winners of zero of their last six (five losses). Caleb Porter’s Timbers, by virtue of little more than their strong start to the season, currently occupy the fourth spot in a very weak Western Conference. By the time kickoff rolls around on Sunday, it’ll be nearly two months to the day since their last clean sheet.

With the clearly stated objective to get the Galaxy into the playoffs, Sigi Schmid has his work cut out after taking over for Curt Onalfo last week, as his new side currently sits seven points adrift of the sixth and final playoff place. The streak of eight straight seasons competing in the playoffs is in serious danger. Jonathan Dos Santos is highly unlikely to be available as he awaits his U.S. visa, which means another week of Jermaine Jones patrolling central midfield for the Galaxy. LA have won just nine points in the 11 games Jones has played this season (14 from 10 games without him).

Full MLS schedule

Saturday

D.C. United vs. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. Orlando City SC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Seattle Sounders — 8 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution — 8:30 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo — 10 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Columbus Crew SC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Report: Galaxy All-Star Van Damme has offer in Belgium

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Reports from overseas say LA Galaxy All-Star defender Jelle van Damme may be leaving the club to return home to Belgium.

Van Damme reportedly has a two-year contract offer from Royal Antwerp, which boasted a home draw against Anderlecht in this weekend’s league opener.

[ MORE: Man Utd adds Matic ]

The big 6-foot-3 defender joined the Galaxy in 2016 and has made 55 appearances for the club. He was sent-off late Saturday versus Seattle, his third red card of the season (all for two yellows).

UPDATE: MLSSoccer.com has quotes from Van Damme, who admits he’s home sick:

“If I think about myself, I’m good in LA. If I think about my kids, I just want to go back,” he explained. “I know it got all in the press in Belgium and the clubs in Belgium know my situation, my team knows the situation – [LA] always respected my situation and they helped me out wherever they could. But I feel the second year is getting harder and harder.”

Van Damme, 33, has 31 caps for Belgium and is well-traveled in club soccer, having played for Standard Liege, Ajax, and Anderlecht amongst several other stops.

His absence would be a big one for LA, which had just made a huge splash in acquiring Jonathan dos Santos from Villarreal after upgrading its attack with Romain Alessandrini in the offseason.