Editor's Note: Ahead of the first game between the LA Galaxy and LAFC on Saturday (3 pm ET | FOX), we're bringing back this feature on LAFC striker Diego Rossi, which originally ran on March 9.
LOS ANGELES – Although Carlos Vela was the name grabbing the most headlines entering LAFC’s inaugural season, it was their other Designated Player who put the finishing touches on the team’s dream debut, a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders in Week 1.
1. LAFC’s first-ever goalscorer is (was) a teenager
With the Black & Gold’s first goal in franchise history, Rossi earned LAFC all three points in the rain at CenturyLink Field – and beat out the four other contenders for 2018’s first edition of AT&T MLS Goal of the Week, receiving 44 percent of the vote.
“It’s very important for me and important for my confidence,” Diego Rossi said in a sit-down with MLSsoccer.com. “It’s also important for the confidence of the group to get a victory.”
Rossi scored the one-timer on his last day as a teenager. He turned 20 on March 5, a birthdate he shares with Costa Rican teammate Marcos Ureña.
2. Looking up to Luis
Luis Suarez | USA Today Sports Images
When asked about players he looked up to when he was a boy and players he admires now, Rossi gave the same answer: His fellow Uruguayan Luis Suarez.
Before he moved to European giants Ajax and Liverpool, Suarez played for Nacional — the biggest rival of Rossi’s hometown club Peñarol — leaving Montevideo to play abroad at age 19, just like Rossi.
“Suarez right now in Uruguay, and in the rest of the world,” said Rossi, “he’s been the main example for me.”
FC Barcelona’s star striker is also the top scorer in Uruguayan history with 49 goals.
3. Finishing in style
When LAFC’s veteran fullback Steven Beitashour was asked whether playing with Rossi reminded him of past teammates, one immediately came to his mind.
“Ashkan Dejagah with Iran’s team,” Beitashour said. “He’s a great finisher.”
When the Iranian-American defender elaborated on what the two shared in common, it was easy to see how Rossi’s training style allowed him to produce a finish like the one in Seattle.
“When he gets around the box everything just kind of slows down for him. I feel like in training, he’s never just lacing one as hard as he can, it’s always placement with some power.”
4. Glimpses of MLS greatness
Josh Wolff | USA Today Sports Images
In Rossi, LAFC coach Bob Bradley sees resemblances to a player that helped his 1998 Chicago Fire side win MLS Cup in their inaugural season.
“In Chicago we had Josh Wolff when he was young,” said Bradley. “Josh had a certain way of moving in another gear at times. I think with Diego you can see a little bit of that.”
When he was asked about Rossi’s finishing, however, Bradley spoke to Rossi being a bit further along than Wolff was at the time.
“In his early days Josh was fast and knew how to get chances and as time went on, his finishing got better and better. Diego’s feet are very good, he can play any of the spots up front.”
5. Decision maker
Star MLS striker turned LAFC scout Juan Pablo Angel | LAFC
LAFC scout Victor De Los Santos monitored Rossi since he was 12, and the young Uruguayan didn’t need much added convincing from other South Americans who’ve played in MLS.
In fact, he only needed one conversation with one former player: Juan Pablo Angel.
“He said it’s a good opportunity to play in a league that is very competitive, and I should come,” Rossi said when asked about the conversation with the former Colombian international and current LAFC scout. “So I came.”
6. Humor builds camaraderie
Omar Gaber (center) shares a laugh with his teammates | LAFC
Amid the mounting expectations for the club, and the added challenge of starting a team from scratch, Rossi has enjoyed opportunities to share a laugh with his teammates.
It’s easier to make jokes with Marcos [Ureña], Carlos [Vela], Luis [Lopez], Nico [Czornomaz], and Rodrigo [Pacheco], who all speak Spanish,” Rossi said. “With Omar [Gaber], he speaks a little English like me, so we joke around too.”
With over a dozen different nationalities represented at LAFC, humor has been key to developing the group’s chemistry.
7. Versatility off the field
When it comes to life off the field, Rossi is as versatile as he is on it.
“I do everything,” Rossi said when asked about his other hobbies and interests. “I don’t have one thing that I like. Every day I do whatever, music, films, I do a lot of things.”
A global city like Los Angeles is a good fit for that omnivorous approach.
“You have it all here,” said Rossi. “You have entertainment and places you can visit. It’s a very big city. In Montevideo you don’t have all these things, but you might have something else.”
8. Missing a taste of home
The “something else” Rossi alluded to that he’s yet to find in LA? Asado. In Montevideo, the word can signal an event, a technique, dozens of dish variations — the American cousin would be barbecue or grill, but that doesn’t quite do it justice.
“I can’t find it anywhere here, but Uruguayan asado is very good,” Rossi said, gazing longingly into the distance after training. “It’s different than the meat you find here.”
Beef is a staple in Uruguay, and like its neighbors to the north (Brazil) and south (Argentina), the country is famous for the quality of meat it produces. When compared with American beef, the difference is so stark, it’s almost incomparable, according to the likes of Rossi, whose search for Uruguyan-style asado in LA thus far has been in vain.
9. Newlywed, new homeowner and new … Frenchie?
In December, Rossi married his longtime girlfriend Vivian. The two met when they were 15 and now live together in their newly-purchased home in Pasadena.
“It’s really calm and nice there,” Rossi said about choosing his neighborhood.
It also helps that he’ll be able to take surface streets from home to LAFC’s future training ground at Cal-State LA, with Banc of California stadium a short trek down the 110 freeway.
Without other family or friends from Uruguay following them to LA, the couple have recently been on the hunt for a French bulldog to complete the domestic package. When asked why a Frenchie, his answer was simple.
“Because my wife likes them.”
10. Sky Blue dreams
Uruguay's national team | USA Today Sports
The marriage, the house, the dog, and even the first goal in LAFC history have all been recent highlights in Rossi’s life. But there is one thing he’s wanted since he was a boy.
“It’s my dream to represent my country, but it’s very difficult,” Rossi said. “I have to work hard towards the dream.”
While Rossi wouldn’t hypothesize on his fringe chances of making Uruguay’s 2018 World Cup squad, he did insist his mentality was to always be ready, whether the call comes or not.
“It’s important. If you’re dreaming, you have to prepare.”
If the rest of Rossi’s debut MLS season goes anything like his first game, who knows what will happen? La Celeste’s first-choice strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are both 31, and at some point young blood may be sought.
After all, his idol Suarez made his senior debut and scored his first goal for Uruguay at age 20.