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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Jonathan dos Santos

A better season, but not his best.

Los Angeles Galaxy v Seattle Sounders FC Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Jonathan dos Santos, like many people around the LA Galaxy and world, frankly, suffered a poor 2020 season. Was 2021 a comeback?

In many respects, absolutely. After an injury-plagued season that included a surgery, dos Santos was healthy in 2021 and played pretty much all season. As the team captain and in many respects a player the team has to build around, having him in the lineup is key.

In terms of number of appearances, he nearly matched his career high in 2021, with only 2019’s 29 league appearances besting his 26 games played for LA in the season just passed.

Here are dos Santos’ statistics in 2021:

Jonathan dos Santos 2021 LA Galaxy Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 26 22 1,816 1 0 17 2 5 0

At his best, dos Santos is absolutely an MLS Best XI-caliber player, but did he reach those heights in 2021?

In a word, no. Dos Santos was on the field much of the time, which is half the battle for him, and his skill on the ball and composure on the field is always an asset to a team. According to FBref.com, dos Santos was once again one of the very best in MLS in terms of his passing rate and basically all of the advanced passing stats for his position, which tracks with his strengths as a deep-lying playmaker.

(You can also find this table on JdS’ FBref.com page).

But in terms of the other advanced stats, dos Santos was not good. You don’t expect him to be a scorer, and he did have that big goal in the win over LAFC, but no assists is pretty shocking. You could say maybe Greg Vanney wanted dos Santos to play a more defensive game with the likes of Victor Vazquez serving as all playmaking, no defense midfielders? I think that’s certainly possible, and yet the comparison in terms of his defensive stats are not good. Aside from interceptions, where he’s merely average, he’s in the bottom third in all other defensive categories among midfielders, so he really didn’t look like he stepped up his game or if he adjusted, was able to pull it off.

We always knew that dos Santos was a tough player to build around, because his role is getting more and more rare around the world, and you have to structure your midfield in a different way than most managers do these days. Having said that, even though he was “back” in 2021, and even though he professed he was hoping to stay in Los Angeles longer, in terms of on-the-field contributions, it makes sense that the Galaxy decided to move on from him in the offseason.

That gives LA an open Designated Player slot, which is obviously very valuable, and dos Santos has signed for Club América, which means the eternal transfer rumor has come to pass and he’ll play for the club his father and brother both played at. It’s a fitting homecoming, and I wish the best for him in Mexico.

In assessing dos Santos’ Galaxy tenure, it really was all over the place. He was outstanding in 2019, and while Zlatan Ibrahimovic sucked up most of the oxygen around the club, JdS may have been the team MVP that year. In 2020, he was poor, as injuries really slowed him down and he never found his rhythm. In 2018, his production stats were at their best and he was quite good, but in 2017 and 2021 he played but didn’t really stand out.

I think if the Galaxy were a title contender, he would have played better and we would not have seen the peaks and valleys, and it’s not his fault LA were never a contender with him. But he also didn’t really push the team forward by putting them on his back, it just wasn’t in his toolkit. And so I think the Galaxy made the right call by letting him go on a free.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.