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Douglas Costa or Shaqiri? Projecting the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year

Ahead of Week 1’s games, the Extratime crew had no trouble identifying some prime candidates for the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year award as a new season gets underway.

At least that was the case for co-host Matt Doyle, who highlighted new LA Galaxy winger Douglas Costa as his early pick. The 31-year-old arrives on loan from Italian Serie A side Juventus and has already signed a new contract through 2023, joining Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Kevin Cabral in a high-octane offense.

“The signing went under the radar and was kind of scorned a little bit,” Doyle said. “To be fair, his heart did not appear to be entirely with it at Gremio. But this is a guy who started a qualifier for Brazil, I think last year. He started games for Bayern Munich in the Champions League last year.

“He’s not past it, and I just think with him and Chicharito and Cabral in that front line, and a functional midfield – the Galaxy are still probably going to give up 50 goals. They might score 70 and he’s going to be a big part of that.”

Co-host Calen Carr went with another player who has German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich on his résumé, selecting Chicago Fire FC midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss international arrives on a $7.5 million fee from Ligue 1’s Lyon, the centerpiece of their rebuild under new head coach Ezra Hendrickson.

“Love the signing, also 30 years old so the right age,” Carr said. “And you look at the clubs that he’s played at throughout his career, I mean pretty incredible. I think he’s won the Champions League twice.

“The idea of bringing somebody who has that kind of winning pedigree, I think the Fire also needed someone to really galvanize people out to matches. And then sometimes for Newcomer of the Year, you’re going to need to make an impression. And if you want to think of absolute banger goals, you know he’s going to have a couple of those too, so that’s my pick.”

Going in a slightly different direction, co-host Andrew Wiebe picked one of the Philadelphia Union’s new DP strikers in Mikael Uhre. He’s arrived from Danish side Brøndby for a reported club-record $2.8 million transfer fee, looking to elevate the Eastern Conference’s side offense alongside Julian Carranza (loan from Inter Miami CF).

“Ernst Tanner has a track record of getting these things right, little under-the-radar signings,” Wiebe said. “He’s less under the radar than some of the other guys that have been Best XI candidates for them. I think Mikael Uhre is going to have a huge year, 15 to 20 goals, that’s exactly what they needed. They’re going to be one of the best teams in the East. He’ll get a ton of publicity for it. He’s my Newcomer for the Year.”

One last shout came from co-host David Gass, plugging Orlando City SC attacker Facundo Torres after his reported $7.5 million transfer from Penarol. The Uruguay international is a Young DP for the Lions, and is expected to lead their new-look offense alongside striker Ercan Kara.

Gass also gave a shoutout to incoming Toronto FC forward Lorenzo Insigne. The Italy national team star arrives July 1 after his Napoli deal expires.

“If I’m not going with Shaqiri, I’m going to go with Facundo Torres,” Gass said. “They brought in a center forward, \[Mauricio\] Pereyra’s not a high-level chance creator but he will cover a ton of ground and be active for you. I think Torres, you’re looking at a guy who’s already in the Uruguayan national team, a young player. I think there’s pressure but it’s not 100% on his shoulders. And Orlando has space for him to be successful.”

For a full list of past MLS Newcomer of the Year winners and finalists, check out this database. Midseason signings will surely factor in, too, like how LAFC forward Cristian Arango won in 2021.