Time for MLS Week 8 – can we just put Week 7 in the rear view mirror and move on? Unfortunately for MLS Fantasy, that’s a bit tough to do – at least if you picked defenders from RSL, New England, Seattle, or Orlando. All those teams let in 3 or more goals in over the weekend, with RSL outdoing the rest by letting the LA Galaxy put 5 in the net. This week has three mid-week games and six double game teams, so you better get to making your fantasy picks early this week.
If you bet heavily on LA players, you picked well despite your lack of faith in RSL – either you have some luck or clarity. Colorado kept up with their winning ways, putting three goals in at home against Seattle. D.C. continues showing signs of improvement with a 3 goal shutout versus New England. Former RSL player Alvaro Saborio even got in on the scoring, with a conference by referees allowing what had initially been waved off. Vancouver also bounced back from the prior week’s loss with a similar 3-0 result over Dallas. They looked pretty decent versus RSL, but getting home and some players back made a big difference. There weren’t any draw games this weekend, with the lowest scoring games being Sporting KC’s 1-0 loss to San Jose and Columbus’ sparse 1-0 victory over Houston. The latter game was Columbus’ second win in a row, but it was not a very convincing victory over a 10 man Houston, given goalie Tyler Deric’s red card just over 18 minutes into the game. Hopefully RSL can move on from last Saturday and put on a better performance vs. Houston this weekend, with Deric sitting out.
Based on RSL’s result, it shouldn’t be too shocking that four of the top six forwards for points this past week play for LA. Emmanuel Boateng had a standout match with 16 points from two assists, a goal, and both offensive and defensive bonuses – top fantasy points winner for the week. Might be a good player to consider or watch for subsequent weeks. Starting in the back – interestingly this week’s best goalie was Stefan Frei with 10 points, despite three goals against Seattle. His save of Shkelzen Gashi’s PK, plus six saves earned him bonus points to offset the negative goals. At defender, Jordan Harvey from Vancouver was the clear winner, with 15 points thanks to Vancouver’s shutout and a goal. A number of other center backs came in at 9 points thanks to shutout win bonuses. In the midfield, Sacha Klejstan at 15 points just beat out Mike Grella thanks to the Red Bulls come from behind victory over Orlando. Klejstan put on another key performance constantly pushing the Red Bull’s offense forward in the second half, scoring one and gaining considerable bonus points due to his constant menacing of Orlando’s back line. At forward, Bradley Wright-Phillips with 15 points came in right behind Boateng – he finally lit up his scoring sheet with two goals and a key role in the Red Bull’s win. LA’s Gio dos Santos and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco came in tied for third (14 points) and LA’s Mike Magee and Gyasi Zardes rounded out the top six for the week. We’ll see if upcoming weeks are so clearly dominated by the offense.
Turning to RSL’s past weekend, I did think picking RSL defenders was risky. Unfortunately that was the case, as returning Jamison Olave was joined by all of the back line in a bad performance on the field and in fantasy points. Olave was at the bottom of the RSL fantasy performance with no points earned – his yellow card plus goals conceded offset all the points he earned in 90 minutes. Aaron Maund, Tony Beltran, and Chris Wingert all finished with 1 single point each due to negative points from goals allowed. Demar Phillips and Olmes Garcia joined them at the bottom with a single point each as well. A polite word for it all would be 'blah'.
At the top of the week for RSL fantasy points was Javier Morales with 9 points, followed by Luke Mulholland at 8. Morales substitution into the game for the second half showed he still plays the critical creative role, which gained him three attacking bonus points in just one half. Luckily his stutter-step PK was better this week and also gained him over half of his point total. Luke’s play this week, while panned by some as insufficient, earned him an assist, plus bonus points for both attacking and defending. He is once again proving he’ll work hard to get into games regularly this season. Nick Rimando came in third this week with 7 points, despite letting in five goals. You have to imagine his PK stop (bonus points) versus Steven Gerrard will be something he’ll remember for a while. While Burrito Martinez should have been a good pick, his fantasy performance was limited to 6 points. His goal started off RSL right, but early injury departure from the game limited his production in fantasy and was a critical loss to RSL, as Phillips wasn’t a sufficient creative force to keep RSL moving.
For season totals, Joao Plata is still tops at 54 points. He was well out of reach already, but the only player to gain ground on him much was Rimando. Let’s hope Plata and Martinez both recover quickly – they are two of the hotter fantasy picks for RSL of late, but equally important to RSL, serious threats up top. In the overall rankings of RSL fantasy points, Rimando hopped over Aaron Maund into second place with 37 total points. Similarly Burrito hopped over Beltran to take the fourth spot at 33 points. Even with the lackluster defensive performance against LA, the RSL defensive players still make up most of the top ten on season fantasy points. At this point, Rimando has been making the biggest gains of late and is currently RSL’s top player in points/$ - goalies in general punch above many players due to lower prices. More importantly, Rimando is in third in points/game and a consistent starter. Justin Glad still remains attractive from a bench perspective, as he sat out last week and wasn’t impacted by the poor scoreline from a performance perspective or (as bad of a) negative impact on his psyche. While we did see John Stertzer and Jay Allen this week – they were mostly invisible on the field and they didn’t really move much in overall points either.
So for this weekend – who are the best choices for RSL players? Clearly Rimando is a good choice given Houston’s offensive woes of late. Nick will be playing his 401st game and hopefully will get a shutout to make up for the LA game. The RSL defense is a better choice this week with a home game against the Dynamo, who are winless in five games. Aaron Maund and Tony Beltran should be the best bet picks for defense, both in terms of points and likelihood to play. The other center back and outside back spots will be up in the air yet again – we’ll see whether Jeff Cassar sticks with Olave or puts Justin Glad in the lineup. On the outside, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Demar Phillips this week to deal with Giles Barnes speed. If Plata or Burrito aren’t back though, Demar may again get the nod at a different spot. In terms of other players – Javier Morales will hopefully be fit for the full match or at least as a starter. He’s probably the best bet for overall points. Early indications from Coach Cassar are that Sunday Obayan may also return. Hopefully we’ll see Yura notch a goal this week – he didn’t have much success last week without Plata or Martinez, but RSL will have a full week to adjust or get Plata back. The other player that’s been consistent lately and probably have a chance again is Luke Mulholland.
Looking around the league for week 8 – double game week once again means you have a number of teams to pick from for potentially more points. While NYCFC, Portland, SKC, Vancouver, New England, and Montreal are all on doubles, none are a clear cut choice given the mixed performances and games this week. NYCFC plays two games at home and might have a slight edge in their games against Montreal and Vancouver. Likewise New England plays at home against Portland and Orlando, neither of which have won on the road this year. Vancouver plays at home versus a struggling Sporting KC team which bodes well for the Whitecaps – but then they have to travel cross-country to play at small field NYCFC where their speed won’t have as much effect. Montreal has to play away at New York, but then hosts a suddenly solid Colorado team next weekend. Portland also has a bi-coastal week, playing at New England and hosting tough Toronto FC – with injuries throughout the starting lineup, the Timbers are a risky bet. With the worst week of the double game teams, Sporting KC is up for a test. They play at Vancouver, who convincingly beat Dallas last weekend at home, then have to host the suddenly hot LA Galaxy back in Kansas City. Defense picks on the Timbers and SKC are probably ill-advised this week, especially given that SKC has two home losses to start the season and only one win so far this year (at the formerly hapless Red Bulls).
For individual picks this week, Cyle Larin is probably the best bet given his good start to the year and a double game week. None of the other players on double game teams truly stood out, although Kekuta Manneh may finally start picking up his game, after getting his first goal of the season last week. On the defensive side, Chris Tierney and Bobby Shuttleworth may be due for a reasonable week given their two home games – but be wary of potential for allowing goals against Orlando. Otherwise, you should look to some of the recent performances to guidance on best choices. Bradley Wright-Phillips might have a good follow-up week since he finally got onto the 2016 score sheet. Toronto’s Giovinco is still showing well with two goals over the weekend versus a team that’s stronger than their opponent this weekend (Portland). Finally, Philadelphia has been showing well and playing at home, so Chris Pontius and CJ Sapong might be due for another good week. Get your picks done by Wednesday evening before NYCFC and Montreal kick-off. Good luck in your picks this week!