Against D.C. United on Saturday, Diego Rossi pounced on a loose ball in the box to finish off his fifth goal of the season. The striker’s right-footed shot was only enough to give his side a share of the points on the night, but LAFC will be hoping the goal is a catalyst for the young Uruguyan.
The striker’s version of the timeless “chicken or the egg” conundrum goes something like this.
Strikers need confidence. The type of confidence that given even the slightest of chances, they can produce a goal. How do they find that confidence? By scoring goals, of course.
So which comes first: the confidence or the goals?
For Rossi, it took just 11 minutes to introduce himself to the rest of MLS. Despite not finding the net in preseason, the second Designated Player in LAFC history wasted little time scoring the first goal in Club history in 1-0 victory over Seattle.
And once his account was open, the Uruguayan didn’t stop there.
In five matches to begin his MLS career, the 20-year-old scored four goals and added another four assists. With a brace and three assists in LAFC’s 5-1 win over Real Salt Lake, Rossi became only the sixth player in MLS history to be involved in five goals in one match. During the five-match stretch, Rossi directly contributed to eight of the Club’s 11 goals.
But then the goals dried up for Rossi.
Six matches came and went without Rossi finding the back of the net. And while the team was still earning points, going 3-1-2 in those six matches, the striker looked to be struggling with his confidence. In the words of head coach Bob Bradley, Rossi was too often “going to comfortable spaces on the pitch,” when he needed to be going directly to goal.
“To a striker, scoring is more confidence,” Rossi said after training on Tuesday. “But also, you have to be in the middle of things. When you don’t score, you have to have the confidence to be better. That’s part of any footballer in the world. Not just here.”
When they aren’t scoring, strikers aren’t always the easiest people to get along with. Rossi admits it was difficult not being able to find the net, but his focus always remained on the team.
“If we win, it’s ok. Yes, I want to score but if I help the in another way, it’s ok for me.” Rossi said.
During the goalless stretch, while Rossi’s confidence might have been down, one of the things that helped the striker were the words of encouragement from Bradley and his coaching staff. Instead of benching the forward, they continued to push Rossi to find solutions and challenge himself on the pitch.
“Bob always gives me help. He wants me to score, and it’s important to the team also,” Rossi said. “I had to work in the same way. We tried to work on some things I have to improve on.”
Now, as LAFC prepares to be without leading scorer Carlos Vela for a handful of matches as he joins Mexico's World Cup squad, having Rossi back among the goals is paramount. Asked if he feels any pressure with Vela leaving, Rossi doesn’t hesitate.
“No, no. I think that I am going to work in the same way,” Rossi said. “Yes, of course, Carlos is a very good player. He is very important for us and for me as a forward. But we have to try to supplant him in a good way.
“That is part of the work. We are always working hard and getting better in our football.”