Controversy once again swirls Galaxy-Timbers early season match


Jelle Van Damme found himself in the center of controversy during Sunday’s match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Portland Timbers (photo credit: Debby von Winckelmann)

LA Galaxy 0 : 1 Portland Timbers

By Ivan Yeo

It seems whenever the Los Angeles Galaxy and Portland Timbers get together early in the season, eventually controversy will arise at some point in the match.

Last season, back on April 10, all the talk following the Galaxy’s scoreless draw with the Timbers at the Stubhub Center on Fox Sports 1 was about Nigel De Jong’s tackle on Darlington Nagbe resulted in the Timbers’ midfielder suffering a sprained ankle and missing two games because of it and De Jong being suspended three matches. Nevertheless, the soccer world was abuzz about the incident, especially considering De Jong’s reputation worldwide and the fact that De Jong had only received a yellow card for the foul.

Fast forward a year later, almost to the day, but the settings were the same once again. Galaxy vs. Timbers at the Stubhub Center on Fox Sports 1, and the theme of the match was one again cards, sending offs and potential suspensions, and this time, its Galaxy Center Back Jelle Van Damme that’s in the middle of it. While the Timbers were fortunate to not have lost anybody to this incident, the MLS and soccer world will surely be talking about the latest development surrounding the match and this time.

The game’s outcome was settled in the 8th minute when Diego Chara tapped in the Portland winner but the controversy was yet to come.

Things first started in the 31st minute, when Van Damme picked up a yellow for what referee Baldomero Toledo deemed as dissent. However, three minutes later, Van Damme attempted to stop David Guzman on an attack, which he did, but Toledo felt that Van Damme went a little too far in stopping Guzman and issued Van Damme his second yellow of the match, resulting in his ejection.

“It didn’t look that bad,” Galaxy defender Daniel Steres said. “They looked like break-up counter plays. I can see why he (Toledo) probably thought they were fouls. It sounds like it was nothing on him (Van Damme) and hopefully there’s a chance we can get him back quicker than we expect.”

Toledo said in a statement released shortly after the match that Van Damme received the second yellow for “tripping Guzman” and “stopping a promising attack.”

“Van Damme was given a caution for dissent. On the second caution, Van Damme attempted trip Guzmán which stopped a promising attack,” Toledo said in the statement. “Guzmán avoided the contact and fell awkwardly.”

Onalfo took a different approach to the situation, claiming he had not seen any replays of the incident and implying that his team had to be smarter in those situations, though judging by his reaction on the sidelines to the play, he might have said what he said partly to avoid getting any calls from the league office.

“I haven’t seen the plays,” Onalfo said at the time. “I was told that the players dove, so that’s unfortunate. But he did get a yellow card for dissent and we can prevent that. We dug ourselves a hole, regardless of if the referee made a bad judgement or not. We can’t put ourselves in that situation. We’re at home. We need points. And there in the 34th minute, we’re playing with ten men.”

So another Galaxy-Timbers early season match is in the books, and once again, the match will provide plenty of talking points. Yes there is the Galaxy starting off 0-2 for the first time since 2001 and Clement Diop getting the start in place of Brian Rowe at keeper for LA, but Van Damme’s sendoff will surely get the bulk of the talk in the coming days.

Sadly, the Galaxy and Timbers won’t play again until August 6, and the two teams are only facing each other twice in the regular season. Still, the real anticipated meeting between LA and Portland is sure to be early next season at the Stubhub Center on Fox Sports 1.



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1 Comment

  1. MAYBE I could see a complaint re Chara diving on the first play (on which the yellow was for dissent), but Guzman did dive on the 2nd, and Toledo’s absolutely correct in deciding that the attempt to trip (which made Guzman have to land awkwardly to avoid the collision), warranted a card for stopping a promising counter.