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MLS Fantasy Week 6: Chalk or differentials?

It's the final week of the first Fantasy Champions League qualifier.

Last Updated
7 min read

Welcome to Week 6 of MLS Fantasy! Hopefully your teams have been strong and your picks have been accurate. However, if you have been off the mark, there is a lot more season to go. This upcoming week closes out the first Fantasy Champions League Qualifier, with the top 50 qualifying for the end-of-season competition. Then, starting in Week 7, scores are reset for the new qualifier to pick another 50 to join the FCL. There are four total qualifiers – the next three are Weeks 7-12, then Weeks 13-18, and finally Weeks 19-24. So, if you are still getting the hang of things, there's a ton more to play for!

Week 6 Schedule

Bye: New England

There are two early games this Saturday: Philly hosting Minny and Colorado hosting LAFC. These are good games to target with bench switcheroo plays, depending on how you think they'll go. You could pick up Bouanga (LAFC FWD $9.9) and see if he'll stay the hot hand after his hat trick last week, or bet that LAFC falls flat on the road once again and try some cheap COL defenders (like I am). You could bet on Philly to continue their incredible home form over the past few years (2022-23 they lost one home game) or go with Minnesota, who has two road wins already this season. Depending on your pick, you could try Gazdag (PHI MID $8.6) or Reynoso (MIN MID $8.2), who should be healthy enough to start but will probably be on a minutes restriction. [Note: I have since learned that Reynoso is unavailable this weekend as he is obtaining a green card]

The late game is the only Sunday match, Atlanta hosting Chicago. Chicago's terrible defense has me excited about Atlanta's attack, particularly Almada (MID $9.9) and Giakoumakis (FWD $8.7). Almada is my captain for the week.

Another scheduling concern to keep in mind is that Columbus and Miami have CCC matches coming up over the next two weeks, with both hosting their Mexican opponents this upcoming week. Messi is still recovering from injury and is expected to sit out Miami's league match this weekend. Players like Gressel or Cucho or Suarez may play fewer minutes to save their legs for midweek, and some rotation is possible. Pay attention to the lineups and factor in how much risk you're willing to tolerate if you're selecting players from either team.

Captain Considerations

  • Thiago Almada (ATL MID $9.9). My choice for this week, I expect Atlanta to have major success on offense against Chicago, who has one of the worst defenses in the league. You could go with Giakoumakis (who is also on my team), but I like that Almada is generally better at generating bonus points. That gives me a point floor to avoid a total blowout at the captain position if he doesn't get on the score sheet.
  • Christian Benteke (DCU FWD $9.5M). The season is young, but DCU have had a strong start, with the 2nd highest xG in the league (per Benteke is the centerpiece, with the team taken to another level with the addition of Jared Stroud on the wing and the development of young players Ted Ku-DiPietro (22) and Gabriel Pirani (21). I've got Benteke and Ted in my squad, and I have strongly considered switching the captaincy over to Benteke. I like Almada just a bit better this week, though.
  • Riqui Puig (LAG MID $10.7). The Galaxy have the best offense in the league, with more xG than Miami (who has played an extra game) and the best goals-per-game rate. Seattle have (unfortunately) not had the same imposing defense they deployed last year. With Seattle on the road and still trying to find their form, buying into the LAG offense makes a lot of sense. It would be logical to buy into Puig; Dejan Joveljic (FWD $10.5M), who has scored a goal each game; or Joseph Paintsil (MID $10.4M), who has scored an average of 7 fantasy points per game. Puig and Joveljic have the most points in fantasy right now, both on 45. I wouldn't begrudge anyone for betting against the Sounders at this point.
  • Cucho Hernandez (NSH FWD $11.5M). Cucho has been incredible for fantasy purposes this year, scoring almost as many bonus points (16) as points from goals + assists (18). Columbus plays on the road in Nashville and has CCC midweek, but Nashville has the third-worst expected goals against in the league and a negative expected goal difference at home (so it's not entirely due to their 0-5 thrashing against LAFC last week). Nashville are still missing Walker Zimmerman to injury, so I'd expect them to remain be vulnerable this week. Cucho could feast.

Bargain Bin

These are my picks for players to take if you want to save cash on a position. The thresholds I am using this week are $5.0M for DEF, and $6.0M for GK and MID, and $7.0M for FWD.

  • Luka Gavran (TFC GK $6.0M). The Toronto backup has been solid as Sean Johnson recovers from a hamstring injury. TFC have only allowed two goals on the season and are hosting SKC this weekend. Though SKC is probably a solid team, their attack is nothing special. TFC have a decent chance at a clean sheet and if all else fails, Gavran should at least be in line for a price rise.
  • John McCarthy (LAG GK $4.9M). The starting Galaxy GK is very cheap because the Galaxy's defense has been very bad. Fortunately for them, their offense has made up for it. If Seattle's attack continues to be anemic, McCarthy would be a great value for the week.
  • Keegan Rosenberry (COL DEF $4.9M). I know, I know. I keep recommending Colorado's defense and they keep giving up clean sheets. This past weekend it was our old friend Brad Smith with a 90+7 stoppage time winner (that possibly shouldn't have counted since a Colorado defender was smashed in the face just before the play). And now LAFC come to town off a 5-0 scorching of Nashville. I should know better, but I'm going back to the well. I am taking a risk on Colorado keeping out LAFC (scoreless in two road games so far) and finally getting their clean sheet.
  • Noah Allen (MIA DEF $4.3M) or Sergii Kryvtsov (MIA DEF $5M). I think a Miami shutout of NYC is very possible, if not likely, and I like how Allen has been scoring recently in fantasy. Filling in for an injured Nicolas Freire, Allen has 6 bonus points in his past 3 matches. Kryvtsov has 7 BP across 5 starts, so is a solid cheap option if Allen is not starting. While Jordi Alba ($8.3M) is the best defender option here (better than Gressel so far this year), that price is a major premium for a defender. [NOTE: Kryvtsov is OUT, as is Freire, plus Aviles is questionable. Allen is seemingly a lock to start, but I am nervous about the defense with so many absences]
  • Diego Gomez (MIA MID $5.7M). Gomez is a locked-in starter for Miami. That should be good enough for consideration by itself, but his price is the real appeal. He has a goal and an assist on the season, though his 5 bonus points are cancelled out by -5 points from yellow cards and fouls. Miami does have a good chance at a clean sheet, hosting NYC with one of the worst attacks in the league, so Gomez might bring a nice point floor. If you want someone cheap in the midfield, you could do much worse.
  • Braian Ojeda (RSL MID $6.0M). A solid if unspectacular defensive midfielder for RSL, his price and points took a hit from a red card in Week 2. RSL hosts St. Louis this weekend, with Diego Luna back in the midfield. Though Ojeda is not really involved in the attack, he should get minutes and is averaging 1.5 BP per game. I'd recommend paying the premium to add Carlos Gomez (MID $8.2M) or Matt Crooks (MID $7.4M) (if starting), as they have much much better attacking statistics.
  • Ibrahim Aliyu (HOU FWD $6.9M). Aliyu has 2 goals and an assist on the season, along with a smattering of bonus points. If anyone on Houston is going to score against San Jose, Aliyu is the best bet.
  • Paul Arriola (DAL FWD $7.0M). Arriola has had a slow start to the season, along with the whole Dallas team. If he is going to get going, a derby visit to Austin – who have the worst expected goals against in the league cough cough – is a great place to open his account.

Chalk or "Differentials"?

One concept you'll hear about around fantasy games like this is the hunt for "differentials." Since everyone can use the same players, everyone who is using the same players rise and fall together. That leads to people looking for unpopular picks, so that can gain points where others miss out. It is really the only way to gain rankings, since you can't pass someone if you both have the same roster.

But differentials come with an inherent risk. The "chalk" players are chalk because the evidence has shown they are the best picks for a given week. Premium players like Acosta, Puig and Cucho are all over 35% owned because they are really good and do well basically every week. Fading the best players to seek out a differential carries a major risk: if your differentials do worse than the chalk players, then you are losing ranks instead of gaining them.

The bottom line here is: don't overthink it. Pick the players you think will do the best each week. Don't worry about ownership percentages or what other people's rosters will look like (other than to inform your opinions of who is good or not). Later in the season, if you are desperate to make up points, then you might take more risks with your roster, but now is not the time to get cute with it.

Good luck, everyone. Fight, and win!