LA Galaxy make Jelle Van Damme designated player with contract extension

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The Belgian defender earns a raise after an excellent debut season in MLS.

The LA Galaxy and Jelle Van Damme have agreed to a contract extension, the MLS club announced Wednesday.

While official terms were not disclosed, the Belgian defender has earned enough of a raise to make him a designated player for the Galaxy for 2017.

"Jelle showed last season that he is undoubtedly one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer," Galaxy general manager Peter Vagenas said in a news release. "His contract will still give us the flexibility to bolster our roster during the summer. He is a leader, a winner and a competitor and will continue to be a centerpiece along our back line. We are thrilled to have Jelle as a member of the Galaxy for years to come."

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The 33-year-old arrived from Belgian side Standard Liege in January 2016 and immediately became one of the top defenders in MLS. He started 28 games for the Galaxy, and aided in anchoring a back line that conceded 39 goals last season — tied for second best in the league. Van Damme’s season was enough for him to finish second in the MLS Defender of the Year voting, behind FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges.

“I’m happy to be here. I’m proud to be part of this team and this family. This is a nice warm club. It’s a family. I feel welcome, and I’m happy about [re-signing],” Van Damme told the Galaxy’s website. “I had a great season last season, and it’s good to sign a new deal. I worked for it, and I want to stay here as long as possible.”

The Galaxy now have filled all three designated players slots filled with Van Damme, Giovani dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini, who was announced Tuesday after his move from Marseille.

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