And why shouldn’t they be?
After debuting and recording three goals and one assist in 13 appearances with Peñarol in his club’s dismal 2016 campaign, the Uruguayan giants turned to the 19-year-old Rossi to help them recover this year. The teenager delivered. He made 26 appearances in the league this year, contributing seven goals and eight assists as Peñarol lifted their record 51st title.
“We see phenomenal experience and productivity for a player of his age, 19, at a really big club like Peñarol,” LAFC GM John Thorrington said in the wake of Rossi’s signing last week.
“A statistically productive winger is very hard to find, let alone a 19-year-old South American who is coveted by some of the bigger clubs globally.”
Rossi wore the No. 9 shirt for Carboneros and led a forward line alongside veteran strike partners that ranged in age from 25 to 35.
“We’re very excited with the foundation that was built in Diego’s game at Peñarol,” head coach Bob Bradley said in the promotional video the club sent to supporters after the signing.
Rossi also gained experience alongside players like former Argentina international Maxi Rodriguez, the midfielder who famously broke Mexican hearts in the 2006 World Cup Round of 16 with an extra time golazo. Come March, LAFC will hope the second youngest DP in MLS history can link up well with El Tri star Carlos Vela.
“He offers great versatility, which is something Bob greatly appreciates,” Thorrington said. “He’s played, at times, almost like a wide midfielder. Other times he’s played as a nine or a winger.”
That versatility has also been on display when he’s represented his country. After featuring for Uruguay at the U-15 and U-17 South American Championships, Rossi was on the side early this year that brought the country their eighth continental title at the U-20 level. In a total of 70 appearances across all levels for his country, he’s scored 23 goals, a return that could lead to calls to join Uruguay’s senior team in the near future, though he has also obtained an Italian passport through his ancestry.
With Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani well into their 30s, Rossi is very much in the mix for an inclusion in Uruguay’s 2018 World Cup squad.
“If you ask me in the summer, when it’s happening, I’m going to tell you it’s not ideal.” Thorrington said when asked about a potential dearth of star players in July if certain national squads advance far in the tournament. “But what a great problem to have.”
With Vela, Costa Rican mainstay Marco Ureña, longtime Belgian center back Laurent Ciman and regular Egyptian defender Omar Gaber all already well acquainted with their Russia-bound sides, a Rossi call-up could present a serious personnel issue for LAFC.
Thorrington insisted the wealth of international talent is was a “very secondary variable,” when the team scouted players and added, “there’s a positive and a negative to these players that will be on international duty.”
If the World Cup started today LAFC could be sending an MLS-high five players to the tournament (numbers even Premier League clubs outside the big six would be ecstatic to boast) — and the expansion team hasn’t even signed enough players to field a full team yet.
“If you have players that are being selected for a World Cup, yes, we will be upset when they’re missing our games,” Thorrington said, chuckling a bit. “However, that’s a high-class problem.”