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Diego Rossi looking for better season, personally and for LAFC, in 2019

Youngster talks aims, and Vela rumors.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Carlos Vela’s absence from MLS Media Day in Los Angeles on Saturday was the main story related to Los Angeles Football Club, but Diego Rossi was the player who actually spoke to reporters.

Vela, linked to a possible transfer to Spanish giant FC Barcelona in the current January transfer window, was originally scheduled to speak to reporters, but his availability was postponed before being cancelled.

The 20-year-old Rossi, however, did turn up and talked about his first season in MLS, hopes for the coming season and his national team aspirations.

Coming from Uruguayan giant Peñarol to become LAFC’s second Designated Player, after Vela, the youngster was pleased with his debut season stateside.

“I think adapted well for my first season here,” Rossi said through a translator. “Obviously it was my first season outside of my home country of Uruguay. I learned a lot from my teammates, from the team, but I did feel very comfortable as the season went on. I felt like I improved, but at the same time I look forward to getting better here in the second season with the club.”

Rossi had 17 goals and 10 assists in 37 appearances across all competitions for LAFC in 2018. He scored the club’s first competitive goal, was their first MLS Player of the Week, tallied the second hat trick ever and was runner-up for the U.S. Open Cup Golden Boot. As you would expect for a professional athlete coming off a strong campaign, he’s ready to show there’s more where that came from.

“I think now, I’ve been one year here, this is my second year here, it’s going to be better for me because I’m adapted to the city, to the league. And yes, I hope this season is going to be better for me,” he said in English.

LAFC head coach Bob Bradley has had a reputation of relishing working with young players, and spoke throughout the season of trying to improve Rossi’s game. Based on his words, he seems to be absorbing his coach’s message.

“Bob worked with me, and he spoke with me and he’s trying to [make] me better, like a pure player and for the group to be better also, to have good football and good ideas and we are working for that,” he explained.

Asked about LAFC’s fans, Rossi paid tribute to the support the team received in year one.

“For us it was fantastic for the fans [to be] there with us,” he said. “It’s important that they go to the stadium and it was important for the season they were there always. We invite them to come again this season and we are going to do our best to have good football and to win.”

Of course, Rossi was asked about Vela and the transfer speculation. Rossi responded diplomatically.

“Obviously there’s nothing concrete right now in terms of Carlos Vela,” was the translated response. “We have a strong team already, with or without Carlos. He is our top player, but even then we are a strong and unified group.”

LAFC enjoyed more success in their debut season than most MLS expansion teams, reaching the playoffs, going to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, and wracking up the most points for a new team. But Rossi insisted the goal wasn’t to merely make the playoffs, and in that regard, they came up short.

“I think we put that pressure on ourselves just because of our goals for the season, we wanted to come out as champions from the first year,” he said through the translator. “Obviously that didn’t happen, but it was not an excuse for us to come out from the start and start winning games. Our goal from the start of the season, throughout the year, was to win the tournament, obviously it didn’t happen but we look forward to changing that this year.”

Rossi has been a promising Uruguayan youth international and the next step is to see if he can break through on the senior team. No surprise, that’s a goal he has in mind.

“My goal for this season is to improve my numbers, my stats from last year. I do want to improve as a player, both on and off the field and obviously the eventual dream is to don that national team jersey. It will be a challenge — it’s difficult just because of the amount of talent that’s in Uruguay — but that’s certainly the dream and it’s the dream for many people from a very young age.”

LAFC open preseason on Monday and kick off their second season on March 3 at Banc of California Stadium against Sporting Kansas City.

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