This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
It's been awhile since a true weekend MLS slate has been available for us to play, though there was still midweek MLS action and U.S. Open Cup play sandwiching the brief Gold Cup break. Overall though, it feels like a bit of a reset for Major League Soccer teams. The transfer window is open, players have been allowed some extra time to heal, and teams have had more opportunity on the training grounds to work on their first half flaws.
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I'm putting a lot of weight into how these teams performed Wednesday, so forgive me a few extra sentences here. Houston dominated a Minnesota United team depleted by injuries and Gold Cup absences, but they were held scoreless. This is telling since the healthy version of the Loons was already one of the worst defenses in league history. On the flip side, D.C. United played perhaps their greatest half of the season in Seattle. By the 50th minute, United were beating the reigning champions 3-0 in their own house. Although they proceeded to give up four consecutive goals and walk away without a point in the standings, Ben Olsen's squad showed some encouraging signs. Regardless, their defense certainly is better than Minnesota United's, and Houston hasn't won a game on the road yet this season. Aging veterans like Lloyd Sam, DaMarcus Beasley and Ricardo Clark may start this match on the bench after playing Wednesday, and returning Gold Cup players Boniek Garcia, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto also are likely to be rested after their loss on Wednesday.
Deshorn Brown, DCU v. HOU ($4,800): Brown's latest MLS stint has begun as brightly as his previous one ended. He brings the smart movement of Patrick Mullins, except he does it much faster, and as he gets more time alongside his new teammates it's reasonable to think he will settle in as an average starting forward in MLS. That's pretty good considering all the great strikers there are today. His price hasn't caught up to his skill set yet, and I think we are getting him around a $1,500 discount even after back-to-back games with a goal. Note that Brown is highly unlikely to play 90 minutes, but that's ok at this bargain.
Patrick Nyarko, DCU v. HOU ($5,100): Brown's speed is matched or bested by dangerous winger Nyarko. When he's in form, the Ghanaian is one of the more underrated players in the league. Against Seattle, Nyarko tormented a lumbering Roman Torres, and Houston's players on tired legs may not fare much better.
Dylan Remick ($3,600) should fill in for Beasley in this match and always provides a handful of points for a cheap defender. Taylor Kemp ($4,600) hasn't been this cheap for a long time, too, and he has potential few other MLS fullbacks can match thanks to a wicked left foot. Memo Rodriguez ($4,400) and Jose Escalante ($3,000) are both potential starters on the wing if you want some Dynamo exposure against a lackluster United defense.
Pablo Mastroeni circa 2016 was a blind squirrel that found an acorn. I'm happy we can go back to pretending his team doesn't exist this year for fantasy purposes. TFC are very squarely on the radar. Even without three All-Star talents in Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Justin Morrow they went into New York and earned a point from another of the league's best clubs. They will be without those three once again, and perhaps Sebastian Giovinco after he exited in the 39th minute Wednesday. This time, however, Toronto will be playing at home against a Colorado side that has lost all seven of its road matches on the season.
Victor Vazquez, TOR v. COL ($7,500): While I think the approach to this match may be finding the value plays and looking elsewhere for high profile fantasy options, it's undeniable that Vazquez is the standout fantasy talent here. His goal in added time Wednesday stole a point for Toronto, and his finishing is only bested by his playmaking ability. Whether or not Giovinco is involved in this match, Vazquez will find breaks in the Rapids defense.
Marlon Hairston, COL at TOR ($4,200): Whether Hairston lines up at right-back or further up the wing, the price is very palatable for a player with his attacking skills. His two-goal outburst earlier this month won't be anywhere near the norm, but he followed it up with seven crosses in the next match. Hairston finds ways to impact the game, and as he grows comfortable with his new role as a defender, he'll be even more consistent for fantasy production. Colorado doesn't have many advantages over Toronto, but their legs are fresher and Hairston in particular brings a ton of energy.
I'm particularly watching the lineup for Toronto in this one as Jordan Hamilton ($5,000), Armando Cooper ($4,200) and Nicolas Hasler ($2,500) could all be great values. Zac MacMath ($3,600) will start in Tim Howard's absence and is a textbook tournament gamble against a Toronto side missing plenty of firepower.
These teams kick off a home and home "series" of sorts this weekend, and the first leg is in Columbus, who is one of the most well-rested sides in the league after sitting out the latest U.S. Open Cup round and not playing Wednesday. Philadelphia lost in Montreal to kick off their stretch of four matches in 10 days, so expect some lineup shuffling for this one. Andre Blake and Chris Pontius will be out due to the Gold Cup, but Alejandro Bedoya could be back for the Philadelphia. The Union have been the better side this season, and Columbus have a weak back line, but all other indicators point to the Crew being better fantasy options in this one.
Federico Higuain, CLB v. PHI ($9,000): We had our obligatory Higuain vs. Meram discussion on the RotoWire Fantasy Soccer Podcast this week, and I jumped onto Pipa's side. Higuain has simply found ways to affect every match he's been involved in this season, and while his nine goals have come at a pace I doubt he'll match in the back half of the season, he still remains a threat both finishing and assisting. Columbus has had tons of time to practice for two straight fixtures with Philly and I expect them to consistently break them down in this match. Pipa will be pulling the strings.
Justin Meram, CLB v. PHI ($7,600): Maybe it's a cop out to pick both, but Meram is extra motivated after what he deemed an All-Star snub, and his price is down after a few quiet matches. He's capable of elevating a tournament lineup to the top spot and perhaps even a more dangerous attacker than Higuain at this point in their careers. I am not the least bit concerned about the recent string of performances, particularly after a nice break for Meram and the team to refocus. If you want to play it safe, Higuain is the play, but Meram shouldn't be overlooked in any format.
Jukka Raitala ($3,800) is yet another good value at the defender spot. We have a lot of those on this slate! Fafa Picault ($5,200) continues to entrench himself as the premier Union midfield value on DraftKings despite Haris Medunjanin's ($6,100) admirable consistency.
For fantasy purposes, this is a bit of a tough one to tackle. Montreal have been improving, but enter the weekend with less rest than a dominant Dallas team. Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges and Jesse Gonzalez are still with the United States at the Gold Cup, but Oscar Pareja will still field a very competitive team against a Montreal side that looked a little weary in their Wednesday win.
Mauro Diaz, DAL at MTL ($7,200): In my book, it's time to begin considering Diaz as an every week fantasy option once again. When he's been on the field, he has shown quite well, despite not putting up the fantasy totals we were used to pre-injury. With an assist in three straight matches, Diaz can be expected to continue putting up Victor Vazquez-type numbers with room to grow. Early adopters could reap the rewards this week by using Diaz before his breakout match prices him among the elite midfielders once again.
Maxi Urruti, DAL at MTL ($8,400): I wanted to provide a Montreal option here, but with Blerim Dzemaili costing a pretty penny, I find Urruti the more intriguing play. His form for Dallas has been impeccable, with at least a goal and two shots on target in each of his past four matches. In this system, he has grown into a forward few could ever have expected during his rollercoaster performances in Portland. You shouldn't expect a guaranteed goal from Urruti, but he's among the top true forward options on the slate if you're looking for scoring upside.
Chris Seitz ($4,300) could be a great play in goal behind a well-organized defense on the road. Montreal's attacking choices outside of Dzemaili are hit or miss, but if you want to dig deep, Louis Beland-Goyette ($3,000) had a decent outing Wednesday and could slot in once more if Patrice Bernier isn't ready to go.
The Galaxy shocking lost to the Whitecaps at home Wednesday, pushing them down to ninth in the Western conference. They've lost four consecutive games in all competitions and now travel cross-country to face the Revs on short rest. If there's a small plus it's that the Revs are awful, so Galaxy players don't have to be totally avoided, though New England has been considerably better at home. However, how many Galaxy players can we really play other than Romain Alessandrini? On the flip side, the Revs will tee off against the tired Galaxy, headlined by Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez.
Lee Nguyen, NER v. LAG ($8,200): Nguyen's dual-position eligibility totally changes his fantasy value, as he's a regular set-piece taker who also shoots that you can slot into a forward spot. While Kei Kamara has mostly been a disappointing fantasy option this season, Nguyen is playing well enough that he's likely to be highly owned Saturday.
Romain Alessandrini, LAG at NER ($11,100): Alessandrini is the second-most expensive player on the slate, is traveling cross-country on short rest and will be playing on artificial turf. Nevertheless, he's been one of the best fantasy options on DraftKings since his move from France and if the Galaxy are going to do anything against a not-so-great Revs defense, Alessandrini is likely to be in the center of it.
Diego Fagundez ($6,300) has taken at least four shots in three of his last four games and offers a little higher of a floor than Kamara. Giovani dos Santos ($7,800) has loads of upside even if we haven't seen it in a long time during MLS play. Bradley Diallo ($3,600) has been a dangerous-looking fullback when he plays, and his price certainly makes him worth a gamble if he gets the start.
RSL had arguably the most shocking result during Wednesday's seven-game slate, a 4-1 demolition of the Timbers in Portland. After some early season struggles, the RSL attack is clicking on all cylinders, though they may slow a little bit hosting the Western Conference leaders. Sporting KC have been a solid team this season, but they have been much better at home where they've scored 19 of their 24 goals. The RSL defense is hit or miss, so while Sporting players shouldn't be avoided, the upside is with RSL.
Joao Plata, RSL v. SKC ($8,700): Plata was a beast Wednesday, scoring two goals (including a penalty) on eight shots (five on goal) and sending in four crosses en route to 39 fantasy points. He's scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games, with a floor of nine while hitting at least 19 four times. He has upside as high as anyone else on the slate but comes at a much more affordable price.
Albert Rusnak, RSL v. SKC ($8,700): Speaking of an affordable price, Rusnak is equal with Plata in terms of salary, and while his upside isn't as high, he has a safer floor because he takes most set pieces. He's scored 55 fantasy points in his last two games, and it's not crazy to consider pairing him with Plata as part of a mini-RSL stack.
Sticking with RSL, Jefferson Savarino has also been a really nice piece to the puzzle and his $6,700 price provides enough salary savings to upgrade other positions. He doesn't have Plata's upside, but he's scored at least 10 fantasy points in five of his last seven games. Benny Feilhaber ($7,900) continues to stand over set pieces for SKC, but he's not doing a whole lot other than crosses, and he's not even sending in that many despite 11 in his last game. Dom Dwyer ($7,500) is back from the Gold Cup but he's very goal-dependent and hasn't been scoring many while wearing SKC colors.