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LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Diego Rossi

Youngster made a big splash in first MLS campaign.

Los Angeles FC v Seattle Sounders Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Diego Rossi was the second of Los Angeles Football Club’s big signings ahead of their debut season, and it showed a diversity in approaches to signing Designated Players. Rossi, 19, when he signed, was a Uruguayan striker who had played real minutes for Peñarol, one of the two biggest clubs in his homeland. While Carlos Vela was the man to build the LAFC marketing campaign around, Rossi was the player akin to Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron, a promising South American youngster who could potentially spend a few years in MLS before being sold at a profit to a big club in Europe.

Time will tell if that strategy fully comes to fruition, but it’s safe to say Rossi did his part in elevating his value on the global market with his debut campaign in MLS. He scored the first goal in team history...

...and ended the season as the club’s top scorer across all competitions, with 17 goals, as well as 10 assists. He was also the runner-up in the U.S. Open Cup Golden Boot, and he scored LAFC’s second-ever hat trick, while being the catalyst of the club’s run to the semifinals in that competition.

In other words, Rossi was the real deal. All this production, and he played as a wide forward, with his double-digit assists indicating his ability to link up with teammates and facilitate as well as finish chances.

Rossi LAFC 2018 statistics

2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 32 30 2,604 12 9 89 40 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 4 3 344 5 1 13 7 0 0
MLS Playoffs 1 1 90 0 0 5 3 0 0
Total 37 34 3,038 17 10 107 50 0 0

In some ways, I think Rossi went under the radar in 2018. He did finish Top 3 in MLS’s “22 Under 22” list, but it may be a sign of how high the talent level has gone up in the league that he wasn’t getting any looks at the MLS All-Star Team or postseason honors, when his numbers were very good, especially considering he was the third scoring option on the team, behind Vela and midseason addition Adama Diomande.

There seemed to be times when Rossi’s attempts to draw fouls went on deaf ears from the referees, but I was surprised to look back and see that he never picked up a yellow card all season. That may change, if referees believe he’s trying to trick them and if they key in on that in the future.

And there is the question of whether MLS defenses will do a better job planning around Rossi in the future. Maybe some of his early success, like when he scored or assisted on all five goals in LAFC’s second game, against Real Salt Lake, came because there was no game tape on this team, and Bob Bradley’s squad took advantage of that. They no longer hold that element of surprise, and with a year of hindsight, defenses may look to bottle up Rossi better, knowing he’s capable of scoring or assisting at pretty much any time.

But given his tender age of just 20, it’s worth getting excited at the growth potential in his game, too. Rossi was an unknown quantity coming in, and even with the cultural difference between Los Angeles and Montevideo and the high standards Bradley set for him, he really seemed to thrive. If he continues to remain focused, he’s got every chance of getting much better and really setting MLS alight next season. If he makes that leap, he could be in the Best XI conversation, and honestly, that’s a worthy goal for him, while also working to win trophies for LAFC.

In other words, LAFC hit it out of the park with Rossi, and his success really puts Andre Horta’s struggles in stark contrast. Both players are young Designated Players expected to perform now. One of them got the job done, and one has a lot of expectations in 2019 to come good. For Rossi, the objective will be to truly become a star for LAFC and MLS, and maybe a bigger club and Uruguayan National Team glory will be right around the corner.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!