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LAFC 2020 player postmortem: Diego Rossi

Golden Boot winner, enjoy him while you can.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Diego Rossi is just a pure joy to watch, honestly.

The Uruguayan scored the first goal, in the first game, in LAFC’s history and he just keeps getting better. He’s played the sidekick to Carlos Vela to perfection, and in 2020, he broke out and became the main man when Vela was out, and is now on the cusp of getting the move he deserves to Europe.

Rossi started out in the same position he’s had all three seasons to date for LAFC, as the left-sided forward in the three-man forward line, a many-headed hydra that works because he is so productive. Over the years, Vela has scored hatfuls of goals, the rest of the team chips in, strikers like Adama Diomande and Bradley Wright-Phillips have done their part, but Rossi is both exceptional and still somehow underrated. He’s rarely the first name uttered about LAFC, but without his consistent contributions, it would not be nearly as successful.

Here are Rossi’s stats from 2020:

Diego Rossi 2020 LAFC Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 19 19 1,698 14 4 71 34 0 0
MiB Knockouts 2 2 179 2 1 12 6 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CCL 5 5 426 2 0 10 6 0 0
Total 26 26 2,303 18 5 93 46 0 0

With Vela sitting out the MLS is Back Tournament and injured for three months of the regular season, Rossi played in the same spot and testament to him, elevated his game to be the primary scoring option most of the season. With Wright-Phillips his sidekick, it worked great, with Rossi becoming the second straight LAFC player to win the MLS Golden Boot, and picking up the Top Young Player awards from the MLS is Back Tournament and for the MLS regular season overall.

To illustrate how good he was in 2020, here’s his advanced stats chart from FBref.com, and the attacking numbers are nearly off the chart.

As a scorer, he was in the 97th percentile at minimum last season. You really can’t do better than that.

Rossi benefitted from Vela’s injury, from Josef Martinez’s injury, from the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to be sure, but credit to him for getting an opportunity to be the scoring leader and taking it. And all the while, he’s a player who from every indication is very humble, not a guy boasting about his talents, really with no swag, to be honest, but putting in the work and getting better and better.

The end of the season was a bit of a roller-coaster for Rossi, as he got his long-awaited first call-ups to Uruguay’s senior national team for World Cup qualifying, but is still awaiting his first cap at that level. There’s a feeling that if/when it happens, it will open all kinds of new doors for him, and while he needs to perform on the international level to make it happen, it seems more than plausible it can happen.

But while on international duty, he tested positive for coronavirus and had to miss LAFC’s playoff game against the Seattle Sounders. Yes, Vela was back, but barely, and obviously LAFC missed Rossi for that game.

In the run to the Concacaf Champions League final in December, Rossi was fairly muted by his standards, with Vela the star man in attack in that competition, but he scored the go-ahead goal in the final just after the hour mark, a now-trademark looping goal that snuck in under the crossbar, but what should have been his crowning moment wasn’t meant to be, as LAFC faded in that final half-hour and Tigres flipped the result in their favor. Still, it was a good season for the forward and he certainly has nothing to be ashamed over after a blistering campaign.

What’s the future hold for Rossi? Great question. I think many wonder why he hasn’t been sold abroad already. It’s probably a combination of LAFC have a high valuation for Rossi, for obvious reasons, the coronavirus shutdown having cascading effects in the transfer market, and his wait to get caps for Uruguay. I expect once he gets in the regular rotation and is in games for his country, clubs in Europe will be much more interested, and some may even agree to the price LAFC are asking for him. But time will tell.

On the flipside, we should appreciate Rossi for as long as he’s here in MLS. He’s a special player, I wish I could say with confidence that it won’t be hard to replace him but it almost certainly will be. Likely, LAFC will need to seek several players to replace Rossi’s contributions after he departs. But for now, appreciate the immense talent and production from Rossi while you still can.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.