Soccer

Republic FC signs former English Premier League forward

Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, right, and West Ham United’s Carlton Cole battle for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in London on Jan. 23, 2013.
Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, right, and West Ham United’s Carlton Cole battle for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in London on Jan. 23, 2013. Associated Press file

Republic FC said Tuesday it had signed former English Premier League and England national team forward Carlton Cole to a contract for the remainder of the USL season.

The signing is considered the biggest in Republic FC’s three-year history. Cole is expected to join the team next Tuesday.

Cole, 32, scored 52 goals in 285 EPL games for Chelsea, Carlton Athletic, Aston Villa and West Ham United over 13 seasons. He played seven games for England’s national team in 2009 and 2010. He also made 19 appearances and scored six goals for England’s U-21 national team. He has 86 goals in 388 matches as a pro.

Cole was released by Celtic FC of the Scottish Premiership in June, eight months after signing a two-year contract. He appeared in five matches and had one goal.

At 6-foot-3, Cole is the target forward Republic FC coach Paul Buckle has wanted from the start of the season and has lacked since the San Jose Earthquakes traded loan player Adam Jahn to the Columbus Crew. Jahn scored two goals in 11 USL appearances for Sacramento.

“Cole needs no introduction,” Buckle said in a release. “He has played at the highest level throughout his career, and it shows he is a top player and very good professional. When he became available, we realized the good he can bring, his invaluable experience and that he can score goals.”

This will be Cole’s first professional experience outside the United Kingdom. He made his pro debut with Chelsea as an 18-year-old, though he played mostly on loan with the Wolverhampton Wanderers, Carlton Athletic and Aston Villa during his four-year stretch with the famed London-based team.

Cole spent nine years with West Ham United, including eight in the EPL. He had back-to-back 10-goal seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and a career-high 14 goals in 2011-12 to help the Hammers return to the EPL after one year in the lower division Championship League.

Cole might be looking to reignite his career in the United States and follow in the footsteps of former Chelsea teammates Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, both of whom are 38 and playing in Major League Soccer. Drogba plays for the Montreal Impact and Lampard for New York City FC.

Cole reportedly was courted by several MLS teams in 2013 while he was with West Ham. He reportedly turned down an offer last year from an unnamed MLS team to sign with Celtic FC.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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