Most any member of a Brazil World Cup squad would carry a lofty reputation to MLS, and the flashy winger arrives with a whopping 22 trophies to his name – including Bundesliga and Serie A titles – from stints with Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
“There are levels of good, and he is the top level of good,” said head coach Greg Vanney with a flash of a smile during Thursday’s press conference.
“World-class players mean that typically your efficiency level goes up. You don't need 10 chances to score a goal, maybe you only need three, and that's the quality he brings. It just can make us more efficient on the attacking side, and more dangerous.”
But with names like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in their past and present, the Galaxy and their fans will expect both star power and end product from their newest Designated Player. Especially as the five-time MLS Cup winners stew over their skid of just one Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance in the last five seasons.
Fresh off a difficult campaign with Gremio, and a few seasons of limited playing time in Europe before that, Costa, 31, believes he’s ready to take that on.
“I have heard many positive things. So I know that it’s a winning team and has not been winning for some time now. So I take this as a motivator to try something different, and come here to bring LA Galaxy to the top again,” he said, pointing to former Orlando City SC DP Kaka and other “idols” of his younger days as he discussed his new adventure in North America.
“Hopefully we’ll build up the path to be a champion.”
As long as it’s been in the headlines, this transaction took some doing. Costa’s loan stint in Brazil was concluded in order to start a new one in Southern California, a six-month spell that will bring the final months of his Juventus contract to a close and immediately activate a new deal with LA.
Gremio’s painful – and costly – relegation from Brazil's top flight seems to have been a key factor in opening a door for the Galaxy’s pursuit, which only began in earnest several weeks ago.
“This offseason, one of our biggest priorities was an attacking player who can make a difference in the final third,” said LA technical director Jovan Kirovski. “We'd been monitoring Douglas’ situation in Gremio; we knew that their difficult season would give us an opportunity, maybe, to have a chance to get him.”
The club is still working through his work visa paperwork but are hopeful he will be cleared to take part in preseason scrimmages this weekend. Most important will be his progression towards playing some sort of role in the Galaxy’s season opener vs. defending champs NYCFC on Feb. 27.
Vanney plans to use him primarily as a true left winger to run at defenders on the dribble, but also mentioned the possibility of Costa inverting along the right channel for a different look. His ability to craft an understanding with Chicharito figures to be paramount, as well as his and LA's management of the injury issues that have hampered his career.
Vanney already sees his squad at a more advanced stage than they were at any point in their uneven 2021, though he also acknowledged the weight of the deeper defensive issues that have handcuffed LA’s prospects in recent seasons.
“If we keep taking steps forward in our game model and our ideas of what we’re trying to do from game to game keep getting more ingrained in our group,” said the second-year boss, “and we start to play with more consistency – which is one of the things I'm really happy with this group in preseason, our games from game to game have been a lot more consistent than anything we saw last year – then we'll give ourselves a chance to win a championship. We’ve got to do all those things before we can talk about a championship, and I think those steps are happening now.
“If we defend well, we're going to be a very good team, and that's something that we keep focusing on in the preseason.”