This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
This main Saturday slate of MLS matches features only two of the twelve sides currently holding a playoff spot, while eight of the ten bottom teams will be in action. Although this means significant star power is missing from the pool of fantasy options, don't think it means that we'll be watching meaningless matches! Few sides are truly eliminated from contention, particularly in the Eastern Conference where even last place DC United have an outside shot at mounting a playoff push. For the most part, we've had enough time to judge the Major League Soccer landscape post-transfer deadline and will use that here to pick out some of the best fantasy options on the night.
DC United have seven matches left and very little room for error. They've won three straight matches one goal to zero. Visiting side Orlando City have only collected two points in their previous six matches and currently hold the title of the league's most listless team. Despite a seemingly large gulf in recent results, these two teams are not performing all that differently on the field.
GK Bill Hamid ($5,400): Since Aug. 1, Orlando City have attempted more shots on a per game basis than almost any other MLS side. They've been poor quality shots though, a symptom of a frustrated and desperate team. With DC United keeping three straight clean sheets, and likely needing a few more if they want to play in the postseason, Bill Hamid makes for a great fantasy keeper. United's defense is not dominant enough to keep the shots away, but Orlando haven't yet proven capable of generating dangerous chances consistently, even with Dom Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun entering the fray.
F Zoltan Stieber ($5,400): Recent acquisition Zoltan Stieber has only featured once for DC United, but it was a rousing performance. He instantly looked like the best player in the attack, and by American Soccer Analysis's model, he had 0.6 expected goals and 0.6 expected assists while generating five key passes in just 79 minutes of action. The Lions have been decent at limiting opponents' chances even during their poorest of stretches, but United finally have all the pieces to truly impress the home crowd with a signature performance. Despite the small sample of MLS action to consider, Zoltan appears to be one of the slate's best values.
DC United possess some of the most tempting attacking values you'll find in the back half of the season, particularly Luciano Acosta ($6,400) and Paul Arriola ($5,500). Patrick Mullins ($5,900) is tempting as well, but I'll likely need proof that he's regained form before diving in. Joe Bendik ($4,300) has some appeal if you think DC United's attacking pieces still need time to gel, particularly since United have gone seven straight matches without tallying multiple goals.
Both Montreal and New England are chasing a playoff spot, but for the Revolution in particular, this is a must-win match. A loss puts them seven points back of Montreal, who would round out a likely top-seven in the East fighting for six spots. The Revs just buried Orlando City and are enjoying a bright stretch of results at home, with three goals in three of their past four. They've also kept a clean sheet in three straight at home. With the form, motivation, and home fixture, the Revs are in a great spot, but if Montreal bring their A-game they're capable of besting even the brightest New England performance.
M/F Lee Nguyen ($9,900): Nguyen is the most expensive player on the slate, and deservedly so after tying the MLS record with four assists in one match last weekend. If that wasn't impressive enough, it was in his return from injury! He still has stretches where he is far too content floating around the midfield with little attacking purpose, but even then he's earning crossing points from lobbed prayers to Kei Kamara and free kicks. When he's inspired and aggressive, as he was last week and should be this match, we'll get far more than a safe floor from crosses. He's officially listed as questionable to play, but given the stakes and how often he had his foot on the pedal last week, I can't envision him watching this one from the sidelines.
F Krisztian Nemeth ($6,200): Rolling with Nemeth entirely depends on if he starts and how New England line up, but the talent of the former Sporting Kansas City Designated Player is undeniable. With Kei Kamara drawing attention from the central defense following his hat trick last week, Nemeth should have plenty of room on the wing to torment defenders. Yes, the attack is crowded with a talented Juan Agudelo pushing for minutes, and Teal Bunbury being in his best form in years, but if manager Jay Heaps decides to unleash his highest potential attacker, Nemeth could be a true game changer.
Even on the road, I'm not sure how Ignacio Piatti ($8,900) isn't one of the first players you consider for your lineup this week and the same goes for teammate Blerim Dzemaili ($8,200) should he be thrust back into the lineup following international duty. Evan Bush ($3,800) should be bombarded with shots, and even if he allows multiple goals, the saves may make him worth the cost. Chris Tierney ($5,300) showed well last week after being passed up on the depth chart for much of the season, and while he's still too expensive for my tastes, his attacking upside from the fullback spot is tough to match.
We have another must win match, but this time for the road side. Philadelphia are one point behind New England, but have played an additional match. Fortunately, they could not find a softer opponent than Minnesota United who have only won one of their past six home fixtures. Minnesota allow their opponents an eye-opening amount of quality chances, and they will notably be without their best defensive asset in midfielder Sam Cronin. It's difficult to pinpoint players to target in Philadelphia's unselfish attacking group, but having at least one of them in your lineup may be necessary this week.
F CJ Sapong ($6,900): He's fairly goal dependent, but when facing Minnesota United, that's almost a plus rather than a minus thanks to their generosity to goalscorers. Sapong has been held scoreless in four straight, but still boasts 12 goals and five assists in 23 starts this season. Little additional explanation is needed here, but it's worth noting that Sapong is likelier to play a full 90 minutes than alternative attacking options like Fafa Picault, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho, and Chris Pontius.
M Haris Medunjanin ($6,200): I'm begrudgingly including Medunjanin here. Roland Alberg has been siphoning some of his corner kick duties, and the goalscoring upside just isn't as high as players higher up the pitch. However, if I need to pick who is most likely to play a perfect final pass or hit a wicked free kick, Medunjanin is the first player in this match to come to mind. Typically an underwhelming play at this price with a decent floor, Philadelphia's maestro has additional upside given the weak opponent and high stakes.
All aforementioned attackers on the Union deserve consideration, most notable Roland Alberg ($5,300) and Fafa Picault ($4,700). If you're in a salary pinch, Alejandro Bedoya ($3,200) has even been showing a little juice lately. If you need to go with a Minnesota player, consider the safe floor of Sam Nicholson ($4,600) at a reasonable value.
Colorado are a hopeless side at this point in the season, but Houston are shockingly within reach of the top spot in the Western Conference. Given the parity of the West, they're also within reach of falling out of the playoff spots entirely. At home and still needing results, expect Houston to handle the Rapids at worst, and absolutely dismantle them at best. It's worth noting that Wilmer Cabrera is not afraid to rotate his side and rest his players. With Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, DaMarcus Beasley, Adolfo Machado, and Boniek Garcia all returning from international duty, several fantasy worthy spots in the lineup could be filled by other options like Andrew Wenger, Mauro Manotas, Memo Rodriguez, and Dylan Remick.
M Tomas Martinez ($3,100): The more I think about it, the more I believe Tomas Martinez will get his first start with the Dynamo. Despite being just two goals shy of the club record with eight matches to play, Houston notably have lacked a true creative midfielder and Martinez looks set to fill that role. Once he gets rolling, I fully expect him to be priced like other second tier midfielders, at worst, so this price appears to be a steal. Because we won't get the Houston lineup until 7:30pm or later, and Martinez is far from a guaranteed start, I think the way I'd play this is to budget for a cheap Union attacking player and swap to Martinez before 8:00pm when Philadelphia's match kicks off. He'll be worth the extra effort.
D Dylan Remick ($4,200): Another assumption is that Remick will fill Beasley's spot as the veteran rests after international duty. Remick isn't a pure attacking fullback, but he's proven quite capable of chipping in on the attacking side of the field and is a safe option with a great clean sheet chance. Very few defenders stand out on this slate, leaving the unexciting Remick to be one of my favorite options.
Cubo Torres ($9,200) and Mauro Manotas ($7,900) are both a little pricey for my tastes, but Colorado are so bad that I'm considering them. Houston aren't always the most clinical attacking team, so if I want to get really bold in tournament play, I'm ok with selecting Tim Howard ($3,700) or Zack MacMath ($3,600) as my keeper.
Both of these teams are 3-2-1 in their past six matches, but Salt Lake sit second in expected goals per game in that stretch while Vancouver are near the bottom of the league. Contrary to what many may think without looking at the standings, Vancouver are in a much more secure playoff spot than Real Salt Lake are at the moment with three more points and a whopping three games in hand. This makes for a critical road trip for Mike Petke's side. I'd love to think they aggressively push for three points with their dangerous attack, but a combination of nerves and necessity may bring a more defensive approach from RSL.
F Joao Plata ($8,500): When factoring in price, I am torn between many of RSL's attacking pieces. Luis Silva ($6,700) has been flying severely under the radar as one of the league's best attackers in the past two months. Albert Rusnak ($9,200) remains one of the league's most dangerous threats from the midfield, too. However, with Vancouver's spine being defensively sound, I'll go for the player that sees the most time on the wing. Joao Plata has the speed and dribbling ability to break open any game, against any set of players while also providing us with a fairly safe floor of points week in and week out. Even if RSL as a whole don't push forward as much as we'd like, Plata doesn't know how to take his foot off the pedal and I think he makes for an outstanding fantasy option this week.
M/F Yordy Reyna ($5,600): Cristian Techera is my favorite player on the Whitecaps in this match, but his price is simply too prohibitive when so many other attacking options are out there. That leaves me looking to Yordy Reyna who should play in the #10 role for Vancouver. Fredy Montero has been playing at the height of his powers lately, and with dangerous wingers on either side of Reyna, he simply is in a great spot to succeed. Salt Lake haven't been conceding many goals lately, but they have faced some of the league's weaker attacking sides. Vancouver may qualify as one of those, too, but they have the personnel to bag multiple goals in an important match at home. Reyna stands out as a potential goal scorer and chance creator.
Fredy Montero ($8,100) deserves to be in the same discussion as Cubo Torres, CJ Sapong, and Kei Kamara this week, as does Luis Silva ($6,700). Given that this is the latest match on the slate, and we've featured several other good attacking teams, I'm struggling to devote more than two spots in my lineup to these players. Nick Rimando ($4,200) may be over the hill but as the best goalkeeper in MLS history, it's not crazy to think he'll put his team on his shoulders with a big performance as they make a playoff push.