LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Douglas Costa

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A disappointing season for the Brazilian.

Douglas Costa was the latest galactico to join the LA Galaxy, the Brazilian coming to MLS after a successful career in Europe. And while it’s true it takes some imports to MLS time to adjust, the reality is in the moment, Costa largely failed to impress in 2022.

The 31-year-old was an intriguing addition to the Galaxy lineup. Known at his best as an absolutely lightning-quick winger at Bayern Munich and Juventus, he had honestly never been especially productive in terms of goals and assists at those clubs. And while it was possible that stepping to MLS would open the floodgates, there were also legitimate concerns coming in if he still had the burst of pace to stretch the field and unlock new elements of the Galaxy attack.

But Costa struggled to both show any speed on the ball, and to even stay on the field, between injuries and a league co-leading two red cards, and to contribute much in terms of production. While he finished better than he started, Costa’s only real asset this season was his ability to score on free kicks.

Here are Costa’s stats with LA in 2022:

Costa did see a fair amount of time, but honestly, he was really a pretty peripheral figure most of the way, even if he played a lot. In the opening weeks of the season, he seemed to be getting adjusted to his new team and league, which is fair. And then he opened his MLS account with his first goal, a free kick in a shootout loss to the Seattle Sounders in March.

Well he’s off and running then, right? Not so fast. His next goal came in mid-May, and his third at the very end of August. That’s just not consistent enough considering he had a DP slot.

Add to that the red cards. The first one? Silly, but every player can get a red card from time to time, it happens. The second one? Very dumb, he seemingly went out of his way to get ejected and for a player of his stature it gave a sense that maybe he’ll never come good, which is certainly worrisome for a player you hope will help push you over the top.

The only silver lining of the season came in the dying weeks. With the Galaxy pushing for a playoff spot and Costa receding from the spotlight following the arrival of Riqui Puig, the Brazilian actually stepped up and started performing like the talented, mature pro he is. He had a goal and an assist in the final two games of the regular season, then had the hockey assist on Julian Araujo’s winner in the playoff game against Nashville SC.

If he carried that kind of production into next season, then we could write this year off as an adjustment period. It’s possible, but would I count on it? No, frankly.

Costa remains under contract for next season, and because he and fellow DP Kevin Cabral severely underachieved, both players currently seem like albatrosses for the Galaxy roster. A very good team could get away with one Designated Player out for a long stretch and/or underperforming, but the Galaxy certainly aren’t good enough to have two struggling so much. Even so, while Costa finished better than he started, and perhaps had more to show than Cabral, Costa is the old one, and unlikely to get better. With Cabral, there’s a hope that maybe, just maybe, he could come good, or failing that, get sold back abroad again. Costa’s not going to merit a transfer fee these days.

I have no idea if the Galaxy are seriously trying to move Costa and/or Cabral on, but it’s not the worst idea to move one of them on this offseason, to open up a DP slot and hope to get a player who can actually contribute like a DP. Now 32, it’s possible Costa could replicate Chicharito’s trajectory, get serious this offseason, and train himself into tip-top shape to actually offer production next season. Obviously we saw it with Chicharito. But I think LA need to really consider moving on from Costa one way or another right now, unless he’s promised he’ll be offering more in 2023, because what he provided in 2022 was just not good enough. It’s tough for the top talents to bear the pressure, but that’s why they’re being paid the big money, after all.

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