MLS revealed their 22 Under 22 list for 2019 this week, culminating in the Top 10 on Wednesday. Voted on by a panel of national experts (full disclosure: I was a voter again this year), the list aims to rank the top players under the age of 22 in the league by ability and potential.
This year, a Los Angeles Football Club player tops the list, as forward Diego Rossi was ranked No. 1. Rossi, 21, was LAFC’s top scorer across all competitions in 2018, and built on that in 2019, increasing his scoring in league play from 12 to 16 goals as LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield. All told, Rossi scored 18 goals in 2019 across all competitions this year, bettering his mark of 17 in 2018, and added nine assists in league play, while playing in all 39 games.
Rossi’s durability itself is impressive, but so was his ability to be a consistent second scoring option even with Carlos Vela breaking the league’s scoring record this year. Rossi finished fourth in the league in regular-season goals, with 16, and was the youngest player in the Top 15 in the league.
Rossi, who finished 3rd in the 22 Under 22 in 2018, behind Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies (who have both since made high-profile transfers to Germany) is likely to be a top transfer target to Europe in the next few windows, with rumors already circulating around the player.
Rossi is not the only LAFC player, or Uruguayan LAFC player, for that matter, to be on the 2019 22 Under 22, as Brian Rodriguez was ranked No. 4. Rodriguez, 19, played nine games for LAFC after joining in the summer transfer window, tallying an assist after being thrown into the fray straightaway. While Rodriguez’s ranking is largely based on potential, considering he played less than 500 minutes, Rodriguez is arguably a bigger transfer target already on the European stage, as he had a good U-20 World Cup this year and is a full Uruguayan international already, having scored several goals in just a handful of appearances.
The other LAFC players who were on the 22 Under 22 ranking last year either aged out of eligibility (Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing) or left the league (Andre Horta). The 22 Under 22 isn’t a major honor, but it is a good barometer of how young players are judged around the league, and even with room for growth for both Rossi and Rodriguez, it’s great that LAFC’s young players are considered to be the best in MLS. Congrats to Brian and Diego.
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