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Should Diego Rossi be in the MLS MVP race?

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LAFC forward taking leaps as player and leader.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Diego Rossi “only” scored a goal Sunday, but the Los Angeles Football Club forward was a force yet again, as he led the team to a 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers.

Rossi’s goal was the second in the game, to give LAFC a lead they ultimately did not relinquish, and his strike was a beauty that displayed both an excellent team buildup and Rossi’s ability to elude defenders and bury a shot on demand.

“Diego’s goal was a really good goal, in terms of how the ball moved and the timing. That certainly gives confidence again,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley told reporters during the postgame press conference.

The 22-year-old now has 10 goals in 11 regular-season games this season, to lead MLS. As the primary scoring option with Carlos Vela sidelined all but three league games so far this season, should Rossi be a legit candidate for MLS MVP this year?

“We’re really not a team that talks about things like MVPs until the season’s over,” Bradley said when asked about the Uruguayan’s MVP candidacy. “But what we love is the way Diego has taken more responsibility. He’s become more of a leader. You could see it in Orlando and it continues. He’s growing as a player. I’ve mentioned a few times how he works so hard on his finishing, that part keeps getting better.”

Prior to Sunday’s win, LAFC were mired in their worst form to date as a club, losing four of their previous five games. As a young core continues to emerge this year, Bradley said one of the priorities this season has been to nurture a leadership component in those key young players like Rossi.

“We’ve challenged a number of guys to try to see if they can take more responsibility. That’s Eddie Segura, that’s Mark-Anthony Kaye, that’s Diego and Eduard Atuesta. I think that Diego and Eduard, before he was injured, those two have really shown that they can be leaders in our team.

“Now we’re just trying to build on that, with Mark and Latif [Blessing] and Eddie and Tristan [Blackmon] and others. But I’m really proud to see the way Diego just keeps focused on the right things. He’s a really good team guy and I think he’s getting better and better.”

Rossi wore the captain’s armband for LAFC Sunday, and while Bradley sounds like he will continue to rotate that honor among players for the time being, Rossi appears to be able to shoulder the mantle of being LAFC’s big star with Vela out for a sustained period.

“Mark has worn the armband, Diego has now worn it, I think probably there’ll be some times when Eduard wears it,” Bradley said. “It’s all about trying to develop some more leaders. We’re a young team, and you’ve got to try to make sure that some of these guys that have been here, and understand the way we play, really take more responsibility every day with their teammates, on the field in games, and that’s what I see from Diego. We’re going to continue to challenge all those guys in the way they take responsibility and make our team stronger.”

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