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Douglas Costa needs to step up for LA Galaxy

He may be adjusting, but the team needs him now.

MLS: FC Dallas at LA Galaxy Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy have the most distinguished history of big-name Designated Players in MLS, and also possibly the most checkered.

David Beckham? He is a historical figure for starting the DP era, but his tenure at the club started rocky before ending in storybook fashion.

Robbie Keane? Absolute success, one of the best players in MLS history, period.

Steven Gerrard? Well he played, but he wasn’t very effective.

Giovani dos Santos? Ditto.

Jonathan dos Santos? His seasons in LA were like a box of chocolates.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic? The team around him was not good, but he did what was expected of him, in volume.

Chicharito? After a horrible debut season, he’s come good.

Douglas Costa? It’s early but not looking very good so far.

The 31-year-old, in his first season with the Galaxy, has played 13 games, scoring two goals in 757 minutes. After a cautious run-up to minutes at the start of the season, he’s dealt with injuries, something that limited him at times when playing for the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus.

You can argue it’s early, Costa is only about six months into a deal that will last through the end of 2023, but it already feels like LA should have some buyer’s remorse.

Perhaps the biggest red flag comes from his most recent action on the field. Coming off the bench for the final 24 minutes in LA’s 3-2 home loss on June 29, Costa threw a dumb elbow right around the final whistle while fighting for position, connecting with a Minnesota United player’s head, wholly unnecessarily. He got a red card after the final whistle, then got an extra game added to his ban from the MLS Disciplinary Committee, missing El Trafico last weekend.

Players make mistakes and sometimes top players need to play with heightened emotions — we’ve seen the good and not-as-good of this from both Chicharito and Zlatan — but picking up a truly dumb red card after the game and then having to sit two games, right after coming back from injury, is a lot to take.

Also, the standards are simply different for the veteran, big-name players and the rest. Galaxy fans are right to be concerned that LA’s third DP, Kevin Cabral, may never really come good, and the long contract the team has signed him to may turn out to be a huge mistake. But Cabral is 22, and while his consistency is a major concern, there remains, in theory, some potential to figure it out still there.

But Costa, at 31, is the finished article, and he’s struggling to really imprint himself on games other than an occasional free kick in the net. As a player who used to dominate chunks of games in the Champions League in recent years, he looks like a shell of what he was, at least so far.

I will admit when LA signed him that I was skeptical Costa would be particularly productive in terms of goals and assists, and so far he’s given no reason to indicate he’ll start producing at a career-best clip, at least this season.

But it’s time for him to step up. His resumé is just too good to come off the bench most of the time, when he does play to kind of skate through proceedings, and be almost as liable to commit a red card offense as a goal.

Obviously, if it takes him some time to acclimate to the unique beast that is MLS, he wouldn’t be the first, and even as I mentioned at the top, the likes of Beckham and Chicharito had rocky starts to their Galaxy tenure before hitting their stride. That could still very well happen to Costa here.

But the reality is, with LA already holding onto a playoff spot by their fingertips, they need everyone pulling their weight. That includes the DPs, and Costa’s contributions are needed. Hopefully, he can put it all together and make the right kind of mark on the field as soon as possible.

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