When Diego Rossi arrived in Major League Soccer to play for Los Angeles FC back in 2018, he was probably unknown for most of the fans around the league. Just a few minutes into his debut were enough for him to leave his fingerprints on team’s history, scoring the first-ever LAFC goal in MLS.
Two seasons after, the 22-year-old Uruguayan has become one of the main offensive threats of Major League Soccer. His durability – he only has missed two MLS games in 2018 and none in 2019 – and his contributions made him a fundamental piece to LAFC.
In this scout report, you will find the answer to why Rossi has been linked to some European clubs last summer and is very likely to be moved on in the next transfer window.
Rossi’s first weapon: scoring goals
Diego Rossi began his football journey playing as a centre-forward for Peñarol. After scoring more than a hundred goals and being his division top scorer for four consecutive years, he jumped to the first team with at just 17 years of age. That explains why despite playing more as an attacking winger in Bob Bradley’s tactics, Rossi still managed to keep a solid scoring rate.
In his first MLS season, he held a tight correlation between his xG (11.94) and his 12 goals scored. He was league’s top scorer if we measure players of his age or younger. Last year, he helped his team with 17 goals, much above expectations as he had 13.52 xG.
He finished again as the team’s second scorer behind Carlos Vela and had the fourth-best record of the league. In the picture above, Rossi tied their last game against Philadelphia Union after a well-directed shot.
His tactical understanding and technique
Probably being in a physical disadvantage against most central defenders because of his height – 170 cm – has made Rossi develop into an intelligent, technical striker. From a tactical standpoint, the Uruguayan is great at anticipating. Using his quickness, he frequently changes the direction of his movement at the right moment to gain positional advantage and shoot. He also scores a lot by winning second balls, showing he is a quick reader during plays. Below we see Rossi changing the direction of his run while the defender is focusing his view on the ball.
As for his technique, Diego Rossi has two great abilities. First, he shoots with both feet. From his 17 goals last season, eight were scored with his right foot and eight with his left. Secondly, half of his MLS goals came after first-touch shots, turning him into a very difficult player to defend against inside the box.
To understand more about Rossi’s attacking effort, we can add a couple more stats to this part of the analysis. The 22-year-old had 211 total touches in the box, topping that category last season and he was second if we measure it per 90 minutes, with 5.77, behind Philadelphia Union’s Sergio Santos’ 6.19. He also ranked fourth in total shots with almost half of them (47.2%) being on target, and most of them (74.3%) inside the box, as we can see above.
His role in LAFC’s attacking tactics
Bob Bradley’s most used formation is a 4-3-3 with focus on the possession of the ball. They ranked second in 2019 in ball possession with a 57% season average. Until Brian Rodríguez came into the team, Rossi was mostly playing as a left attacking forward. After Rodríguez’s acquisition in August, Rossi was moved to the right flank to open a spot for his new teammate, keeping Carlos Vela as the centre forward.
We can see in the following picture that Rossi’s territorial coverage is well distributed all over the pitch.
During 2020, we could see former La Liga forward Vela exchanging positions with Rossi often, so the Uruguayan was sometimes positioned as a centre-forward. This mechanism allows Vela to move to one side of the pitch or to go low near midfielders to play more like a false nine or a creative attacking midfielder at times.
As we see in the picture above, Rossi’s 2020 season heat map shows that he is playing more on the right and at the centre-forward position.
On the defensive side of this, he is mostly active in two situations. Firstly, when there is a possibility to recover the ball through counter-press, or when LAFC press high during opposition’s build-up play. In the following image, we see Rossi running to press the most probable receiver in a defensive transition.
In terms of holding a position on the defensive block, it depends on how high the team is going to press. If they are holding on in a mid-block, Rossi can position himself as a wide midfielder, setting a 4-4-2 and jumping to press the opponent when the moment comes, as we can see below.
We already had a glance at how Diego Rossi moves in the box to gain time and space to finish and how quick he is. In this part of the analysis, I will show how Rossi manages the team’s offensive principles.
Depending on which position he is playing, the Uruguayan can have different roles in the offensive phase. If he is playing as a centre-forward, he will mostly position himself between the two central defenders to make runs and stretch the defensive line. If it is possible to receive a pass, he will run and ask for the ball like we see below, just before scoring after receiving in the space between the central and the right defender.
In case he is playing at one of the side attacking positions, he will be wide to make spaces bigger in favour of the circulation of the ball.
If he sees an opportunity behind the defensive line, he will probably make a run and try to be a possible receiver, like we see in the next image.
His importance in offensive transitions
Despite being a team that is more likely to attack through positional play under Bob Bradley’s tactics, the nature of both Rossi and Brian Rodríguez as quick-young runners invites them to explode in transitions.
Also during corners against their side, most of the time all LAFC players go back to defend, but Vela, Rodríguez and Rossi are the ones responsible to win the ball after a clearance. In case any of them wins the ball, they will try to run straight forward in transition.
Contributions as a passer and runner
In Rossi’s tactical analysis, his passing skills can’t be overlooked. He reached six assists in each of his two MLS seasons. In 2019, he also had three second-assists and four third-assists. Besides that, he was ranked in the top-15 in the key passes category.
In the picture below, Rossi is assisting his teammate that just had to push the ball into the net. The Uruguayan is sixth in crosses into the box per 90 minutes.
In terms of running with the ball, he is in the top-10 at making progressive runs, and he has maintained his contribution in that stat, having 81 in 2019 season and 82 in 2018.
This scout report shows Rossi is a very complete player. The Uruguayan has shown signs of his quality on a regular basis during his two seasons playing in the MLS. His tactical IQ seems to be above average and his technical skills as a striker are proven.
Diego Rossi has been the second-best centre-forward of the 2019 season according to Wyscout’s Index metric. He was also named by the league as the best player on their under-22 list in 2019.
The reasons why he has recently aroused interest from some Premier League and Serie A teams has been detailed through this tactical analysis. It is a matter of time before we see how the market responds to him once football resumes.