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LAFC 2019 Player Postmortem: Brian Rodriguez

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Evaluating the promising youngster’s first months in MLS.

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Semifinals-LA Galaxy at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club kept their powder dry in the offseason in terms of bringing in big-name players, something that wasn’t a huge surprise considering they entered the season with three Designated Players and were therefore somewhat limited in what they could do.

But with Andre Horta’s stint at the club not working out and the club moving quickly to move him on and open up some free space, LAFC did some shopping at the U-20 World Cup and got a promising player there, Uruguayan attacker Brian Rodriguez, in the summer transfer window, after spending a decent transfer fee to get him from Peñarol.

Just 19 years old, it was hard to put too many expectations on Rodriguez considering LAFC had a good case/bad case scenario with their two previous young DPs: Diego Rossi, who came through the same Peñarol pipeline, was blossoming and putting himself up as one of the best young players in MLS, while Horta sank like a rock and just didn’t fit at LAFC. Which one of those paths would Rodriguez travel?

It’s early, is the obvious if unsatisfactory answer so far, but Rodriguez jumped into the fray in late August and ultimately played less than 500 minutes for LAFC in 2019.

Here are Rodriguez’s statistics with LAFC in 2019:

Brian Rodriguez 2019 LAFC statistics

2019 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2019 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 7 5 385 0 0 17 5 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 2 2 112 0 1 2 1 0 0
Total 9 7 497 0 1 19 6 0 0

Now, a couple notes. First, unlike Horta, Rodriguez was chucked into the lineup right away. Some of this came out of necessity — with Christian Ramirez traded to the Houston Dynamo in the summer, Adama Diomande dealing with personal issues and taking a leave of absence, and Carlos Vela suffering a hamstring injury late in the campaign, Rodriguez was pressed into service immediately, maybe a bit sooner putting him into a full speed environment than Bob Bradley, who usually incorporates newcomers slowly, might have liked.

The good news is he got plenty of reps right away, so the acclimation period should more or less be over for him.

As for the quality of play? I’d say the limited sample puts him between the poles of Rossi and Horta. Rossi was basically a best-case scenario, a guy who scored on his debut and who has been consistent throughout his two seasons. Horta didn’t get the same run but he never posted a goal or an assist and never seemed to fit in with his teammates on the field when he did get to play.

Rodriguez looks much more assured alongside his teammates, so he’s already better than Horta, but there was some concern about his end product, as he posted no goals or assists in the regular season, 385 minutes of action, despite taking corner kicks and shooting quite a bit. One of LAFC’s qualities in general relative to most of MLS is they don’t tend to hit wild shots that sail way over the goal, but Rodriguez was good for a few of those every game.

The good news is he did get on the scoresheet in the playoffs, setting up a goal in the win against the LA Galaxy, although many thought he was offside in the buildup. Officially, it was a goal and he got an assist, and that’s promising that there may be more end product to come.

There have been percolations in recent weeks that Rodriguez, like Rossi, is a transfer target in Italy already. I think it’s certainly possible, although if I were to project which player is more “ready” for Serie A, it’s probably Rossi. Still, Rodriguez has played his best soccer since joining LAFC not for his club but for Uruguay’s senior team, where he’s slotted in seamlessly and frankly, fit like a glove, both for the B side and the A side alongside Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

I think Rodriguez could do with another year in MLS to hone his game, become more clinical and fine-tune before getting a big move to Europe, and I expect that will happen. But being on Uruguay’s national team is a huge endorsement for the player, with Uruguayans in general picking up one of the most positive reputations of any national team players in the world. They have that garra charrua — the battling, never-say-die attitude to go alongside their obvious skill, and that’s an attractive profile for any team. We see it in spades with Rossi, and while it hasn’t come to the surface as much in Los Angeles, it’s likely there for Rodriguez, too.

At any rate, bigger things will be expected of Rodriguez in 2020, beginning immediately with the Concacaf Champions League in February. We got a glimpse of a player who was getting his feet wet but looked like he could keep up with the league in 2019, and to get ready for a future move to Europe, he’ll need to show he can grow and become one of the stars of MLS while he’s here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!