It would be difficult to think where the Los Angeles Football Club would be this season without Diego Rossi.
In his third season, Rossi has again proved to be one of the league’s more dynamic finishers, leading the league with 14 goals heading into the final game of the regular season Sunday against the Portland Timbers (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
Rossi had scored 28 goals and added 16 assists in his first two seasons.
“He’s always continued to work hard to improve as a player,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “This year, especially in long stretches, without Carlos (Vela), we’ve seen him step up, his finishing has improved, he’s gotten us important goals and I think he’s become more of a leader in our team.”
Despite his scoring talents, the 22-year-old forward has failed to make the MLS Best XI in each of his previous two seasons.
This season, he’s a finalist for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP and the AT&T Young Player of the Year. He has a three-goal lead in the race for the Golden Boot over Gyasi Zardes (Columbus), Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle) and Robert Beric (Chicago).
Rossi was the MLS is Back Young Player of the Tournament in July and led the tournament with seven goals.
“It has been great to see the way he continues to move himself forward and he’s been our best and most consistent player throughout the season,” Bradley said.
“He knows around here, the bar gets set high. There are still games where his ability to make more things happen, his mentality in the hardest game, when obviously the other team is trying to slow him down or physically make it difficult, those are areas where he has improved, but I think he can continue to get better.”
LAFC enters the game in sixth place in the Western Conference, with a 1.48 points per game average.
LAFC (9-8-4, 31 points) can finish as high as fourth, which would guarantee a home game in the opening round of the MLS playoffs. A loss to Portland (11-6-5, 38 points), combined with other results, could see the club fall as low as eighth.
“We would like to finish the season on a really good note,” Bradley said. “We certainly know that they’re also playing to try to win the conference, so we believe it is a really good test to finish the season and prepare for the playoffs.
“We want to use the game to sharpen our team, we want to use the game to have guys ready for playoffs. For me, I like to see our team step on the field with the right mentality, play some really good football and get a great result and finish the season.”