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Former England defender Ashley Cole joins LA Galaxy

28 January 2016, 12:20

Carson — Ashley Cole is off to California to join Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane among the stars in the LA Galaxy.

The longtime England defender was acquired by the Galaxy on Wednesday, becoming the latest European veteran to join the five-time Major League Soccer champions.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena expects the 35-year-old Cole to begin training next week. Cole also must formalize a work permit before suiting up for the Galaxy, who expect him to be a major component of their rebuilt back line.

Keane, the Galaxy's longtime captain, praised the signing after training Wednesday.

"Ashley is a top-class player, and I know him very, very well," said Keane, the former Tottenham striker. "Definitely one of the best left backs in the game for the last 15 years, there's no question. I think it's important that we get players like Ashley Cole in here. If you look at last year in terms of goals we conceded, it was definitely way too much. The guys coming in will certainly help us at the back."

The Galaxy worked for months to acquire Cole, who obtained a release from his contract at Roma earlier this month. Cole made only 11 appearances in two years with the Serie A club, and the Galaxy believe the polarizing defender is refreshed and ready to have a big year stateside when the MLS season begins in March.

Also Read: Former England star Cole released by Roma

"He's an experienced left back, and we want to have a little bit more versatility with our outside backs," Arena said. "He's certainly a player over his career that's obviously been a great defender, can get forward in the attack, and I think that's something we hope to utilize."

Cole began his professional career with Arsenal in 1998, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups while establishing his reputation as a dynamic defender with a flair for joining Arsene Wenger's attack. He then moved across London to Chelsea, where he won the Champions League in 2012 and four FA Cup titles.

Cole also made 107 appearances for England, the most by a fullback in the national team's history. Cole played in three World Cups — two alongside Gerrard, the former England captain — and two European Championships before retiring from international football in 2014.

"I don't want to add any unnecessary pressure to Ashley, and I'm sure he could handle it anyway, but I think it's a masterstroke by the club," Gerrard said. "He's very professional. He's hungry. He loves the game. Defense is one of the areas where we went wrong last year. Ashley is a world-class defender, and he's still got a lot to offer, so I think it's a very good bit of business."

Arena expects Cole to slot in as the Galaxy's starting left back, which means defender Robbie Rogers must move to the right side.

Also Read: Cole relishing Lampard reunion

Rogers became arguably the best left back in MLS after moving to the back line from midfield, but the rest of the Galaxy's defense often didn't match his level. Rogers, who is naturally right-footed, embraced the position switch made necessary by Cole's arrival.

"It doesn't really change my enthusiasm or my motivation to help this team out, and I think (Cole) is a great addition to our squad," Rogers said. "I hope that he comes in and is himself. ... I think Bruce has shown a lot of faith in me over the past. I think he knows that it's going to be a learning curve, but he's seen me adapt before in the past, so he thinks I can do it again."

Cole's signing was finalized one day after the Galaxy acquired Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme from Standard Liege. Van Damme, the likely replacement for former U.S. national team regular Omar Gonzalez in central defense, is expected to arrive in Los Angeles this weekend.

The revamped Galaxy defense also will have a new goalkeeper, likely MLS veteran Dan Kennedy.

The Galaxy also are attempting to finalize a deal with Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, who is under contract to Milan through 2018. Arena declined comment directly on de Jong, but obliquely mentioned "perhaps another signing in the next week or so."

"I think we've formed a pretty good nucleus here to start the season," Arena said.

- AP


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