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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Jelle van Damme completes exit from LA Galaxy and joins Royal Antwerp

Rookie Jonathan Lewis and veteran David Villa netted stunning goals to give visiting NYCFC a 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy.

Jelle van Damme completed his exit from the LA Galaxy on Friday, sealing a return to his native Belgium with Royal Antwerp.

Van Damme, 33, had informed the MLS club that he wanted to return to his native Belgium for personal reasons and to be closer to his children. 

The Galaxy will receive $235,000 from Antwerp for Van Damme, who joined LA on a free transfer ahead of the 2016 season and made 46 appearances for the club during his time there.

"Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children," LA Galaxy general manager Pete Vagenas said. "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 also posted a message on Instagram explaining the move and thanking LA fans and his teammates.

"In life we are always faced with really difficult decisions," Van Damme's post read. "This is one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make as a player and a person. My family is the most important thing in my life and after two years away, I have decided to go back to Belgium so that I can spend time with my beautiful kids.

"I am going home to be with my family, but in the process I am leaving the family that I have made here in LA. I want to thank the club for working with me to get me closer to my kids.

"I have loved playing for you, the supporters of this great club. I have loved serving as your captain while representing the LA Galaxy, the fans and the city of Los Angeles. The LA Galaxy and each of you will remain close to my heart. Thank you for all of your support."

On Thursday, club president Chris Klein told "Soccer Weekly" on ESPNLA 710 that Van Damme's situation had affected his play this season.

"Jelle has made it clear that he wants to go home for personal reasons, and he misses his kids," Klein said. "So we're still working through it.

"It's not an ideal situation for us, for Jelle, but there are things when in your personal life that affect your play on the field, and we've certainly seen that at different times with Jelle this year.

"Inconsistency for us in the back has been a big problem, and I think he's been suspended for portions of eight of our games."

The LA Times had reported that the Galaxy hoped to keep Van Damme for two more games this month, but he will leave MLS immediately with Antwerp already three games into the Jupiler League season.

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