MLS Fantasy Rankings: Week 1

MLS Fantasy Rankings: Week 1

This article is part of our MLS Fantasy Rankings series.

MATCHES (EST)

Forwards

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1Carlos VelaLAFC v. MIA13.0LAFC are the second-to-last game this weekend, and will have to give their all on Thursday night to try and overcome a 2-goal CCL deficit. Vela probably suits up, regardless of the CCL result, but have a backup plan just in case.
2Josef MartinezATL at NSH11.5Atlanta are through to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals (Leg March 10-12) and should be plenty rested to ruin Nashville's MLS debut on Saturday. Josef gets up for games like this.
3Cristian PavonLA at HOU11.0Pavon's hype train is full steam ahead in the preseason, but deservedly so. 
4Gustavo BouNER at MTL10.5Bou does it all. The Revs will be missing Carles Gil, but with Montreal sitting deep, New England's attackers should gather plenty of counting stats.
5Diego RossiLAFC v. MIA11.0If he looks bad again Thursday night, you can adjust this down a few spots, but the matchup is extremely favorable here.
6ChicharitoLA at HOU11.5Big things are almost surely ahead for Chicharito in the goalscoring department, but right now Pavon is more integrated with the Galaxy teammates and has better all-around fantasy scoring potential. Playing both this week isn't out of the question either.
7HeberNYC at CLB10.5I'm not the first MLS analyst in the club here, but if he stays healthy, Heber is my pick for the Golden Boot. Columbus should have one of the league's best defenses, though.
8Adam BuksaNER at MTL8.0MLS fans have learned to be wary of scoring machines from second-tier European leagues, but I think Buksa, who was leading Poland's Ekstraklasa prior to his transfer, will live up to expectations.
9Ola KamaraDC v. COL9.5Ola may fly under the radar, but when he has gotten to play his preferred position, the league has seen few better scorers. He has 51 goals in 86 MLS starts and has another great supporting cast this year with Asad, Gressel, and Edison Flores.
10Gyasi ZardesCLB v. NYC10.0Another preseason darling, because Columbus have been steamrolling their scrimmages, Gyasi will likely have another good year. He's as goal-dependent in fantasy as they come though, so I prefer to only play him in lopsided affairs.
11Mauro ManotasHOU v. LA9.5Manotas' fade last year was incredibly disappointing. The pieces are there for Tab Ramos to reinvigorate this attack, but I'm not certain how they all fit together, and Houston probably will take some time to adjust.
12Jozy AltidoreTOR at SJ10.5In true Jozy style, he's apparently looking great in preseason but also is already picking up knocks. The buzzing man-marking of San Jose may not be the ideal first matchup.
13Raul RuidiazSEA v. CHI11.0CCL could have an impact here, but it's more likely we're looking at the teams resting players next weekend. If Seattle roll at even 75% strength, they'll find some success...
14Robert BericCHI at SEA9.5...On the other hand, if Seattle rotate in some young guys, Chicago have a whole new set of talented attackers that could surprise them at home, including proven goalscorer Robert Beric.
15Brian WhiteNYRB v. FCC8.0Brian White is far from a flashy DP or TAM signing, but he did score 9 goals in 17 starts last year and showed a penchant for being in the right spots at the right time just like his predecessor.
16Lucas CavalliniVAN v. KC9.0He has been scoring in preseason and his nickname is El Tanque. Do you need any further analysis?
17Alberth ElisHOU v. LA9.0Elis against new Galaxy left back Emiliano Insua (formerly of Boca, Liverpool, Sporting Lisbon, Atleti, etc.) should be a fun matchup to watch. Despite the pedigree, Insua (31) will have some challenges against Elis' elite speed and the Galaxy are also likely to be missing starting center back Daniel Steres.
18Alan PulidoKC at VAN10.5Pulido's low ranking this week could make me look foolish, but I want to see this SKC team before entrusting them with my fantasy fate. At least for this first week, they are likely without their exceptional midfielder Felipe Gutierrez.
19Zdenek OndrasekDAL v. PHI8.0The Cobra finished last year strong and Philly will be playing with a new defensive midfielder.
20Luis AmarillaMIN at POR9.5I have not seen much of Amarilla, but he sounds like he's going to be a massive success in Minnesota. He's the 6th new signing on this Top 20, though, and chances are at least one will be a bust. Let's watch him play before selecting him on the road.

Midfielders

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1Pity MartinezATL at NSH9.0Nashville should be a very defensive and organized team this season, relying on the counter to score a majority of their goals. I'm counting on Atlanta to be able to break them down nonetheless.
2Lucas ZelarayanCLB v. NYC9.5In Caleb Porter's system, and surrounded by as much quality as he is, this former Tigres standout could very well approximate or even improve upon Porter's star attacking midfielder when he led the Timbers to a championship, Diego Valeri.
3Alejandro PozueloTOR at SJ11.0Pozuelo may have faded down the stretch last season, but keep in mind he essentially played a full European season then came to North America for another 4+ months. Rested and with a full preseason, Pozuelo is going to give opponents a ton of trouble.
4Joao PauloSEA v. CHI8.5When Lodeiro is fully fit and ready, Paulo will play more of a reserved midfield role. When Lodeiro is out, it's likely Paulo will fill the #10 role, which he already did in CCL with instant success. This guy is good.
5Daniel RoyerNYRB v. FCC8.5Red Bulls are right there with Nashville and Vancouver as having the least flashy roster in MLS. I like this team though. Royer, Josh Sims, Florian Valot, and Marc Rzatkowski all can be valuable fantasy contributions from the wing and whomever starts is definitely in play against what might be a dysfunctional Cincinatti side.
6Jamiro MonteiroPHI at DAL8.5Monteiro will probably never get the full credit he deserves, because he's not on one of the league's premier teams. Atop Philly's new midfield diamond, he could get similar bonus point production but add some goals and assists to last year's already respectable total.
7Nicolas LodeiroSEA v. CHI12.0If Lodeiro was healthy and definitely playing, he could be #1 this week. We can reassess after Thursday's crucial CCL match.
8KakuNYRB v. FCC8.0The biggest advantage New York has in this matchup is that their midfield trio should dominate Cincinatti's. Kaku will find plenty of space if Cincy haven't quickly figured out how best to cover for a deep-lying Haris Medunjanin.
9Eduard AtuestaLAFC v. MIA10.5Atuesta has been nursing some minor injuries and missed LAFC's first CCL leg. I don't imagine he plays both fixtures this week, so keep an eye on Thursday's match. If he suits up against Inter Miami, with the rest of the first team alongside him, he'd a top five midfield play.
10Ezequiel BarcoATL at NSH8.5Pity is getting all the attention, but Barco looks like he raised his game a notch in the offseason as well. 
11Latif BlessingLAFC v. MIA10.0Check the formation each week to make sure Blessing is playing as an attacker, but assuming he is, he'll likely have no problem producing similar figures to last year's impressive fantasy outputs.
12Sebastian BlancoPOR v. MIN10.5Portland want to be an aggressive attacking team and that will suit Blanco if they can stay faithful to the plan. Their leaky defense may necessitate some changes, though.
13Maximiliano MoralezNYC at CLB11.0Maxi's fitness does not seem 100% headed into the year, and it may never be this season, but when he's starting he has to be seriously under consideration. New manager Deila is more eager than Dome was to unleash this to notch attacking group.
14Edison FloresDC v. COL10.0MLS does not get many players like the slippery Flores. Against teams without an athletic defensive midfield, he could wreak havoc. Jack Price will likely have some issues this weekend.
15Diego ValeriPOR v. MIN10.5With two new forwards, the signing of Yimmi Chara, and Jeremy Ebobisse still in the mix, Valeri could easily be the Timbers first sub each game or a super-sub himself.
16Cristian EspinozaSJ v. TOR9.0It's tough to tell what we're going to get out of Toronto FC, sans Michael Bradley, to start the year. It's also really tough to predict how San Jose will come out of the gate after last year's slow start and horrid ending.
17Younes NamliCOL at DC8.5Namli is a name to watch as Colorado's new playmaker. It will be important to see how his chemistry develops with Colorado's numerous attackers and if he can siphon any set pieces from Jack Price.
18Rodolfo PizarroMIA at LAFC10.0At LAFC? Nah. We don't even know who is playing forward for Miami right now - it might even be Pizarro as a false 9.
19Mauricio PereyraORL v. RSL8.5Undoubtedly a quality player, Pereyra didn't threaten goal enough in his limited action last year for me to rank him any higher without getting a good look at him under Pareja this weekend. Remember that Nani is out for the first two matches.
20Mark-Anthony KayeLAFC v. MIA9.0With 26 teams and only 20 spots, we're leaving a handful of influential fantasy midfielders off of this list each week. Kaye jumps some high profile names (Rusnak, Russell, Taider, Gressel, Quintero, Katai, Barrios, Eriksson) due to the matchup against a debut franchise still figuring things out.

Defenders

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1Aaron LongNYRB v. FCC6.5Long certainly doesn't lead the list in attacking output (although he is an aerial presence), but his consistent bonus point generation and the most favorable clean sheet chances of the slate put him at number one.
2RuanORL v. RSL5.5Depending on Orlando's formation, Ruan may only be a defender by name. The preseason buzz has him playing even more attacking than last year, which was already a lot. I'm sure this will vary by game, but against RSL I think Orlando will have plenty of chances to push upfield.
3Milton ValenzuelaCLB v. NYC5.5Before injury last year, Valenzuela showed his value in the attacking third. He should frequently find himself near or even in the opposition box and with the group around him, I expect that to result in plenty of offensive output, by defender standards.
4Reggie CannonDAL v. PHI5.5Dallas has tested a 3-centerback formation this preseason, which would leave Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead as marauding wingbacks. I don't think they break it out for this match, but it's clear Luchi Gonzalez is happy letting his talented fullbacks join the attack.
5Tim ParkerNYRB v. FCC5.5Similar to Aaron Long.
6Vito WormgoorCLB v. NYC5.5Columbus project to have one of the league's best defenses, and Wormgoor seems a good candidate for passing bonus points which is one of the most predictable and consistent fantasy stats.
7Fernando MezaATL at NSH5.5The same passing factor from above also applies to Meza. Last year's Atlanta centerbacks raked in the passing bonus points and Meza is probably better than both at that skill.
8Jorge MoreiraPOR v. MIN6.0He's flat out one of the best attacking fullbacks in the league and Portland are playing at home with some new firepower.
9Harrison AffulCLB v. NYC6.0Afful never quite generates the fantasy points you would expect by watching him, but he's an incredible asset to Columbus and easily one of the league's best right backs.
10Ryan HollingsheadDAL v. PHI6.0Philly's narrow 4-4-2 diamond might give Dallas' fullbacks plenty of room to operate on the wing. Few take advantage better than Hollingshead.
11Eddie SeguraLAFC v. MIA6.0Assuming LAFC play their A-Team, Segura is another of the league's finest passers from the center of defense. Inter Miami are still figuring things out up front, too.
12Reto ZieglerDAL v. PHI6.0Very much in the mix for penalty kick duty again this year, and if not, the Dallas defense is still a top notch unit.
13Antonio Cunha Capocasali JúniorORL v. RSL5.5Keep an eye on who is starting alongside Robin Jansson in Orlando. It could be Rodrigo Schlegel instead of Antonio Carlos, which would be roughly equivalent for fantasy.
14Joevin JonesSEA v. CHI6.0Very much depends on CCL this Thursday, but he could very well start for Seattle at left wing. Don't be fooled into taking the quick but rough and reckless Nouhou instead of Jones.
15Alexander ButtnerNER at MTL5.0Very much on my radar, but I won't pretend to know a ton about him aside from a solid pedigree. How much Bruce Arena will let him push the attack remains to be seen, but the outlook is good against a bunkering Montreal.
16Frederic BrillantDC v. COL6.0There's little reason to think DC can't be a very good defensive team once again this year. Colorado overachieved last year and won't be intimidating until they prove otherwise.
17Ali AdnanVAN v. KC6.0There's a chance we're ranking him in the top 10 every week for his offensive talents, but Vancouver's defensive outlook holds him back a bit.
18Steve BirnbaumDC v. COL5.5A few less bonus points than Brillant, but more set piece headers.
19Jonathan MensahCLB v. NYC5.5We'll need to monitor this partnership with Wormgoor to figure out who generates more bonus points (through aggression: clearances, interceptions, etc) and who is tasked with passing out of the back.
20Dario ZuparicPOR v. MIN5.5Zuparic sounds like another quality passer and a steady defender that Portland desperately need.

Goalkeepers

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1David JensenNYRB v. FCC5.0Make sure this isn't Ryan Meara. I don't hate Cincy's attack, but it seems like many of their exciting new pieces (literally their entire offense) have been working on their visas and either haven't had time to gel or won't be available.
2Brad GuzanATL at NSH6.0Nashville also have some exciting pieces, Hany Muktar first and foremost, but I think it's just as possible Atlanta dominates this one.
3Pedro GalleseORL v. RSL5.5Immediately one of the best keepers in MLS, playing for one of the best defensive coaches in MLS.
4Kenneth VermeerLAFC v. MIA6.0I'm not sure he's as good as the Dutch Eredivisie experience would suggest, but LAFC's keeper is certain to put up good fantasy numbers over the course of a season by default.
5Matt TurnerNER at MTL6.0The Revs defense is their most concerning unit, but not because of the talented Turner. Bruce Arena finds ways to keep the ball out of the net.
6Bill HamidDC v. COL6.0Few people can steal a match like shot-stopping extraordinaire Bill Hamid
7Eloy RoomCLB v. NYC5.5Another top-tier keeper, but NYC have one of the more fearsome offenses.
8Stefan FreiSEA v. CHI6.0Without the CCL factor, Frei would be top-2 this week.
9Jesse GonzalezDAL v. PHI6.0There's a drop off in my mind from the top 8 this week to the next grouping, but I still don't mind Gonzalez or Clark.
10Steve ClarkPOR v. MIN6.0 

Value Rankings

(forwards and midfielders under $7.5, defenders under $6.0; not ranked above)

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1Cristian Casseres Jr.NYRB v. FCC6.5Casseres will become a name any half-serious MLS fan knows by the end of the year.
2Gadi KindaKC at VAN7.0Good reports out of camp and should have a chance to show his talent immediately, with Felipe Gutierrez likely missing this match.
3Sergio SantosPHI at DAL7.0Kacper Przybylko just missed my top 20 forwards, but his strike partner Sergio Santos has had a nice preseason and is a full $3.0 cheaper.
4Tristan BlackmonLAFC v. MIA5.5LAFC felt good enough about him, or about a future signing, to dish Walker Zimmerman to Nashville.
5Tesho AkindeleORL v. RSL6.5Reunited with the coach that drafted him, Tesho should lead the Orlando attack in Dom Dwyer's absence.
6Kyle DuncanNYRB v. FCC5.0Like most of his teammates, Kyle Duncan is incredibly underrated. He's certainly not a top fantasy talent, but when the Red Bulls have a clean sheet chance, I think he brings enough attacking potential to the table to be quite rosterable.
7Thiago SantosDAL v. PHI6.5Santos sounds like he will immediately be one of the league's best defensive midfielders, with both a great defensive game and technical ability as well.
8Sacha KljestanLA at HOU6.0Not guaranteed to start, but with Jona dos Santos likely out, there's a chance he joins an already dangerous attack.
9Diego PalaciosLAFC v. MIA5.0A fading fantasy afterthought for two consecutive years, Kljestan appears to have found a second-wind this preseason in Los Angeles.
10Memo RodriguezHOU v. LA6.0We should assume the Galaxy defense will still be very poor until shown otherwise.

Captain Rankings

RankPlayerMatchupPriceNotes
1Pity MartinezATL at NSH9.0I'll usually have more midfielders on this list, but Pity is the only one I'm quite confident in. With the new Champions League fantasy format (in addition to season-long standings) it may be more beneficial than usual to go for the goalscorers and try to grab a top-50 spot in each "mini-season".
2Carlos VelaLAFC v. MIA13.0I also don't love that my top three captains all endured a pair of CCL games over the past two weeks, but they're playing the debut teams which boosts their already high potential. For his part, Vela often lobbied to play every match last season, so I'd expect him to be active for the home opener.
3Josef MartinezATL at NSH11.5You think Josef would miss an opportunity to sour a new southern challenger's debut? 
4Cristian PavonLA at HOU11.0Pavon could end the week as my favorite captain if I decide to prioritize fresher legs. I don't love that the Galaxy are on the road and likely to be a mess defensively.
5Gustavo BouNER at MTL10.5Also on the road, but he should feast. Montreal had trouble with Costa Rican side Saprissa, getting dominated in possession, and very well could be down two of their best defenders.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JD Bazzo
JD is a contributing soccer writer at RotoWire and was a finalist for the 2017 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year award. JD has been writing for RotoWire since 2015. He is a proud Pittsburgh native, purveyor of fantasy sports, and likely the first Penn State Basketball fan you've ever met.
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