Not that executive vice president of soccer operations and general manager John Thorrington was much worried, of course. Vela and Bradley have proved to be as great a start as imaginable, but work was to be done. They had two empty Designated Player slots to play with and key players to recruit.
Thorrington and Bradley hopped on a plane to South America for a scouting trip and met with one of the club's scouts at a hotel lobby in Buenos Aires. One of the most important topics of the day was who would play on the wing opposite Vela. Thorrington laid out the budget, Bradley illustrated what attributes needed for the player would fill the role and scout Victor De Los Santos listened.
Almost immediately, De Los Santos knew who Bradley and Thorrington were looking for.
“It was as simple as Victor saying ‘I have the guy,’" Thorrington told MLSsoccer.com earlier this month. "We went and scouted him heavily from that moment on. Victor was right.”
Yeah, Victor was right.
After a strong debut season in which he had 12 goals and 9 assists across 30 MLS appearances, Diego Rossi is on pace to be even better in 2019. With seven goals and two assists, the market for the Uruguayan is heating up.
“What I can share is not surprisingly, yes, there is interest," Thorrington said, before confirming he has received calls from multiple teams. "I’m sure there will continue to be interest. It’s flattering but not altogether surprising given his and the team’s success.”
How much would a perspective club have to offer to secure Rossi's services? Let's turn to a few experts.
MLSsoccer.com spoke with a number of high-ranking front office executives across MLS to find out how much Diego Rossi is worth, each requesting anonymity.
“I was thinking about that — we all know it’s what someone is willing to pay," said an Eastern Conference executive. "$10 million-plus, it depends on the team.”
The $10 million range was the majority answer, with one executive referencing Alphonso Davies' transfer to Bayern Munich. The Canadian international was 17 years old at the time his move was confirmed for a reported base fee of $13 million, which could rise to $22 million in performance-based incentives.
“Over $10 million, easily," said a Western Conference executive. "There’s a bit of an age difference with Alphonso Davies, but I wouldn’t imagine you’d pay a lot less than that. And Davies’ MLS production didn’t really compare to Rossi’s.”
Davies, who made his Vancouver Whitecaps debut when he was just 15, contributed one assist in limited minutes before 2018, when he broke out for eight goals and 11 assists. It was his age-17 season.
Rossi was 20 during his first MLS campaign, in which he had 12 goals and nine assists. At Penarol in Uruguay, Rossi had 13 goals and 11 assists in 51 appearances before his 20th birthday.
Another Western Conference executive is unsure the fee will breach $10 million, though, reckoning it'll be $8-10 million. He also referenced the Davies deal.
"Davies' potential might be higher with the athleticism and size," the executive said. He noted that as the market evolves, Rossi's fee will continue to rise.
Thorrington wouldn't go as far to say he expected a 20-year-old winger to continue contributing a goal involvement every 136 minutes, but is certainly not surprised of Rossi's success.
“We’ve invested a lot of money in him, so the hope was he’d be a significant player for us," Thorrington said. "And he has been.
“You never know, you make decisions that hopefully increase your probability in being right," he added. "In Diego’s case, we have a scout on the ground in Montevideo who has known Diego since he was 9 years old, so, things like that. What Diego can do on the field is fairly obvious, but when I talk about the collaborative process of his fit with how we play and our culture, if someone has known someone since they were 9 years old, it increases the likelihood that you make the right decision there.”
Rossi was rated as the No. 3 on MLSsoccer.com's 22 Under 22 rankings last season, behind only Davies and Tyler Adams, who has since left the New York Red Bulls and immediately became a regular starter for Champions League-bound RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of what you, me, any colleague or European clubs believe, Thorrington's valuation of Rossi is really the only one that matters. And he doesn't have a number in mind.
“Soccer players are not commodities, we’re not trading commodities where there is a price for X, Y and Z. It’s such a romantic business in the sense that you can drill down those details but if you get two clubs that fall in love with a guy, the player hasn’t changed but his worth does. He’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay for him.”
So, how much is Diego Rossi worth? Without a moment's hesitation, Thorrington had the answer.