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What will Douglas Costa bring LA Galaxy in 2022?

Can the mercurial winger find an MLS bump?

Robert Mora/LA Galaxy

Good news! The LA Galaxy should have their full complement of Designated Players available for Sunday’s season opener against New York City FC, after Douglas Costa got his immigration paperwork wrapped up and is eligible for selection.

Expect to see Costa in action in the season opener. But what should we expect from him this season?

It’s hard to say. Some imports hit the ground running, others need some time to adjust (see: Chicharito and hopefully Kevin Cabral). Considering the Galaxy are looking to make a real step forward, perhaps as far as being in the conversation to contend this year, big things will be expected from him.

Costa’s resumé speaks for itself in many ways. The 31-year-old won five league titles and three domestic cups in Ukraine playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, then moved up, winning six consecutive league titles, three in Germany for Bayern Munich and three in Italy for Juventus, to go with a domestic cup in each country in that span. The amount of club success is staggering, with only a handful of players around the world accustomed to winning so much, so often.

Costa will unquestionably bring that title-winning knowledge to the Galaxy, and for a team looking to make a big step up, his knowhow and potential to mentor his teammates while raising the level could be vital, if he’s up for it.

As far as concrete production, here’s where the picture gets considerably more murky. Costa is a winger who not very long ago was still world-class at dribbling past his defender on the flank. His pace is electric and an ability to shake his man is genuinely fun to watch.

But production? He’s not a prolific scorer. He’s never scored double-digit goals in a season anywhere, and his league high was six goals at Shakhtar in 2011-12.

Ok, but he’s a winger, you may say. If he produces buckets of assists, what’s the issue if his goal numbers aren’t especially good? He’s scarcely better on that front, in fact. In 2013-14, he reached double-digit assists, at Shakhtar, with 10 in the league, and in 2015-16 he had 12 across all competitions for Bayern. Last season at Gremio in Brazil, he had three goals and two assists in league play. How many games did that come in? 26!

His career rates on FBref.com (bear in mind, those stats don’t include his first Gremio stint and appear to miss some domestic cup competitions, but comprise the majority of his career appearances at club level) indicate he scores goals at a rate of about one in four games and assists at a rate of about one in four games. So let’s say he plays 30 games this year — an optimistic estimate, admittedly, given his age and injury history — then his career to this point would suggest he would be expected to score 7-8 goals and 7-8 assists this season.

Given his past numbers, a season in which he scored a combined 15 G+A is probably quite good, in all honesty. But is that the expectation?

Galaxy fans have sky-high expectations, and given his name, I think many will want Costa to produce more than that to have a good season. Depending on his salary, the club may want more, too.

There is, of course, one additional factor that could help Costa’s production: the quality of MLS. We’ve seen players who look like they are past it, even in recent years, come to MLS and look like world-beaters. Think Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Nani, among others. Their quality was good enough that even if they were a step or two off the best in their careers, they were plenty good enough to produce at a very good rate here in MLS. It could happen again here.

Is Costa in that tier of player to pull off better numbers in the twilight of his career? Or will we have to settle for a rather predictable 3-goal, 4-assist campaign in 2022? I think we can all agree that based on the MLS roster rules, short of earning silverware this year, Costa needs to do more than simply offer his veteran knowledge, he needs to actually score and set up goals, too, given the DP tag. Will it happen? That remains to be seen.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.