Shea Salinas was the hero of the Quakes’ California Clasico victory over the LA Galaxy, scoring a stoppage-time winner to complete an epic comeback, but it’s the villains that have always been the blood life of the rivalry. On Saturday night, that was Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme.
Van Damme’s inflammatory conduct has fast established the defender as a loathsome figure in the Bay Area, infusing the rivalry with a fresh dose of the animosity that has made it one of Major League Soccer’s top derbies.
Van Damme joined the Galaxy at the beginning of the 2016 season and immediately became a lightning rod for controversy. He went undefeated against the Quakes in his first season in LA and his conflict with the Northern California side came to the fore in a 4-2 Galaxy victory at Avaya Stadium earlier this season when he repeatedly clashed with forward Marco Ureña.
At one point, Van Damme even “scoreboarded” the Costa Rican international.
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 28, 2017
At the end of the match, he also issued this flagrant taunt:
— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) May 28, 2017
These previous tensions were festering ahead of Saturday’s Clasico at Stanford Stadium and Van Damme picked up where he left off, as captured by Quakes Talk photographer Aaron Morgan in one curious interaction with Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski.
Van Damme got the first word in the match, dislodging defender Victor Bernardez to emphatically volley the Galaxy into the lead. It was his first-ever goal for LA.
Unsurprisingly, the Quakes’ ultimate comeback did not sit well with his professed view of California. The Galaxy player’s frustration was evident after Wondolowski’s equalizing goal and Salinas’ winner sealed Van Damme’s first-ever loss to the Quakes.
After trading shirts with Quakes defender Andres Imperiale, he angrily confronted the referees about a Galaxy penalty shout he felt they had overlooked. He was sent off for dissent and chucked Imperiale’s kit to the ground, capping a wild finish in hilarious fashion.
Van Damme continued the fight after the match, telling Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano that the referees decided the game, and further protested on social media.
— jelle van damme (@jelle_van_damme) July 2, 2017
Yes i scored my first ever goal for this great club , yes we lost in the last minute ,yes the referee screwed us over and yes i lost my shit!! #thisisla #caliclassico #ref #screwedus #sorrytomyteammates #2ndyellowcard #redcard #suspendednow #lovemyteam #myclub #greatguys #proud #capi #37 #firstgoal #proud #thoughloss # # #FYI #LosAngelsisstillCaliforniA #
Additionally, he also took shots at the recent managerial changes in San Jose.
“Strange call to fire Dominic [Kinnear] and bring in a totally inexperienced coach, but that’s their problem, not mine.” – JVD on SJ changes
— Adam Serrano (@LAGalaxyInsider) July 2, 2017
His cries elicited appropriately smug reactions from the Quakes fanbase:
“Hey Flo, what did you think of Van Damme’s tempur tantrum after the match?” pic.twitter.com/PiTWxKdLmh
— Quakes Epicenter (@QuakesEpicenter) July 2, 2017
The two teams will face off yet again on Monday night in the US Open Cup Quarterfinals at Avaya Stadium and Van Damme will certainly help make it one to watch.