Meet Diego Rossi: The unheralded 21-year-old 'quarterback' who has steered Los Angeles FC's march toward the MLS Cup
- Diego Rossi, 21, signed for Los Angeles FC from Uruguayan side Penarol in December 2017 for a fee of $4 million.
- He's now wanted all over Europe after an impressive two seasons at the Banc of California Stadium, in which he's managed 28 goals and 18 assists so far.
- Here's the story of how he rose to become one of the most sought after stars in the MLS.
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Carlos Vela has been the poster boy for Los Angeles FC's ascension to MLS glory over the past two seasons.The Mexico international broke the division's scoring record this year with his tally of 34, and was named in its "Best XI" in 2018, helping LAFC make the play-offs both years.Advertisement
But while Vela may have been LAFC's wide receiver - the man who puts the ball in the end zone - it is another star who has been its quarterback.
That man is Diego Rossi
Signed from Uruguayan side Penarol in 2017, Rossi is usually deployed as a winger but has adopted the role of "playmaker" for Bob Bradley's side.Often drifting in off the flanks, the 21-year-old regularly drops deep to collect the ball before driving at the defence with his devilish pace and trickery, or picking a pass for one his teammates.
It's a style of play that was worked to devastating effect for himself and his team.So far this term, the Uruguayan has scored 16 goals and assisted a further seven, while last, he managed 12 and nine respectively. "Diego is such a good player to have on the field, to work with," Bradley said of the 21-year-old last year, according to MLS Soccer. "He's deceptive. He's fast. He's also unselfish on his end."Advertisement
Nicolas Lodeiro, Rossi's countryman who currently plays for the Seattle Sounders, has played against him, and reciprocates Bradley's praise."Diego is a great soccer player, with a lot of talent and a bright future," Lodeiro told MLS Soccer. "He's a young striker with a lot of speed and good technique.Advertisement
"[Diego is] a nightmare for the defense because he can play as a forward or as winger. His versatility to hit the ball and to assist his teammates, makes him a very dangerous weapon."
It was love at first sight for LAFC and Rossi
LAFC was mostly playerless in June 2017, less than a year before its inaugural MLS match was scheduled to take place.It was Bob Bradley, and John Thorrington - a former Manchester United youth player and now the club's general director - who were tasked with assembling a squad that could compete for the MLS Cup.Advertisement
Fortunately, the pair had Victor De Los Santosa, their "scout on the ground" in Montevideo, that tipped them off about the Uruguayan's talents, according to Medium.
"It was as simple as Victor saying 'I have the guy,'" Thorrington told MLS Soccer.A trip to watch Rossi in action first hand shortly followed for Bradley and Thorrington, and it didn't take long for them to know he was someone they must have on their roster.Advertisement
Since, the Uruguayan has gone from strength to strength, benefiting from the experienced players around him such as Vela and Walker Zimmerman, as well as the freedom bestowed upon him by Bradley.
Now he's attracting attention from Europe's elite
A number of MLS youngsters have fled the division for Europe over the past few seasons. Alphonso Davies joined FC Bayern Munich from the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018. And, more recently, Miguel Almiron left Atlanta United for Newcastle United in January.Rossi is now next in line to make the switch across the pond according to reports.Advertisement
Football Italia reports that Fiorentina made a bid of $8.8 million for Rossi earlier in the summer, falling just short of LAFC's reported $13.2 million asking price.
Russian club FC Krasnodar is also reportedly admiring the Uruguayan, says Championat.Read more: Jadon Sancho, a 19-year-old who has been compared to Neymar, is now worth far more than the declining Paris Saint-Germain super forwardAdvertisement
No move is yet to materialise, however it seems only a matter of time as Rossi has already admitted his desire to play for the Uruguay national team and to compete club-level soccer in Europe.
"For all Uruguayan guys, it's a dream to be there with the national team," Rossi told The Athletic when questioned about his future ambitions. "I'm working hard to be there. When the opportunity comes, I have to be ready. I'm working hard for that, and also to be in Europe."Thorringdon also concedes Rossi's talents could see him leave LAFC and the MLS sooner rather than later.Advertisement
"Not surprisingly, yes, there is interest," he said, speaking with MLS Soccer. "I'm sure there will continue to be interest. It's flattering but not altogether surprising given his and the team's success."He added: "He's worth as much as someone is willing to pay for him."
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