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MLS Fantasy Week 7: Homer Week?

As injuries and fixture congestion pile up, there's no one obvious "right" approach for your roster.

Last Updated
9 min read

Week 7 Schedule

Bye: Orlando

Every week, the schedule might shape how you approach your lineups. Early games give you plenty of time to take a risk on some early players by putting them on your bench and leaving a spot for them in your starting lineup if they do well. Preferably, you have multiple hours between early games and late games to decide what to do. This week your options are limited. 12 of 14 games kick off between 4:30-5:30 pm, with the Sounders hosting Montreal as the Saturday nightcap and the Timbers visiting SKC for a Sunday afternoon barbecue brunch.

Fortunately, as Sounders fans, you're in luck! If your early players don't work out, you can grab Sounders players or take SKC players in a bet against Portland. Either way, you're winning! I guess you could take Evander (POR MID $10.0M) as he's been good and consistent for fantasy (scoring 9, 7, 7, and 12) despite 3 of his 4 games being on the road. You do you (I'm happy to potentially sacrifice a couple of fantasy points to not have to root for Portland).

A few things to note: Cucho Hernandez has been out for Columbus the past two games for a violation of team policy and it's anyone's guess as to when he will return. He's rested, so he would likely be able to play this weekend and against Tigres next week, but he may be given little leeway. Messi is likely to be out with injury again this weekend as Miami hopes he can at least return for their Champions Cup quarterfinal away leg in Monterrey. Meanwhile, Caleb Porter acknowledged that New England is almost certainly toast in that tournament after losing the first leg 4-0 at home, and is going to rotate in the away leg at America, so expect a full-strength lineup this weekend for them. I could see some heavy rotation for Columbus and Miami, though.

Clean sheet hunting

Clean sheets this week are tough to gauge. For example, you have Saint Louis, who have had 10 goals scored against them in their past four games, including four conceded at home, hosting FC Dallas – who has just 6 goals this season and the worst xG in the league. Vancouver has shown themselves to be a defensively stout unit, but they're hosting their second rivalry match in a row, this week against Toronto, and just conceded two goals at home last weekend. Two other offensively inept teams, Austin and Houston, are facing two of the worst defenses in the league, San Jose and Chicago.

For me, my top CS target is FC Cincinnati. They have been the best defense in the league with only 3 goals against, despite a full 6 league matches on top of four CCC matches. The only goal they have conceded at home this year in five matches was to Brandon Vasquez. NYRB has a good attack that should have Emil Forsberg healthy, but such a strong defense is going to be a good bet week-in and week-out. I would take any Cincy defender that is starting, but note that goalkeeper Roman Celentano is expected to be out with an ankle injury. It's not clear if Kann or Louro will start, so I'd advise making sure to check the lineups, as either of them would likely be a great value.

Two others I like for their CS chances are Seattle and Vancouver. Toronto does not have a strong attack, especially with Insigne sidelined, while Vancouver does have a strong defense. Rivalry games like this can get heated, but I think there will be fewer fireworks in this one than most others this year.

And as for our Sounders, I believe they will build on strong play that was unrewarded in LA to have an emphatic home win over Montreal. The improving health should lead to a return of the defensive strength that was a mainstay of the squad last year. And Montreal has to be sick of these road games, it will be their sixth in a row. The Sounders will be in desperation mode to prove themselves at home while there's little pressure on Montreal to perform before they return home. My optimistic (but not unreasonable, I think) prediction is a 2-0 Sounders win.

If you want to get spicy with your clean sheet hunting, Saint Louis is an okay bet at home, as Dallas are missing Illarramendi and Ferreira (I believe) and likely will not score. Of course, Dallas have not been shut out yet, so add with caution.

Another risky but reasonable pick is Atlanta. They have some of the better defensive stats in the league while NYC's offense is toothless. Atlanta is away, but the match is being played at Citi Field, which has more room for an actual game of soccer than Yankee Stadium. Without the advantage the claustrophobia gives to NYCFC, and a dampened home-field effect, Atlanta might take control of this game. Atlanta is missing Giakoumakis and Silva, but they still have the pieces to stay possession-oriented and grind out a win (and Gonzo Pineda is certainly familiar with many of those games). Brooks Lennon (DEF $8.4M) in particular has a high floor through his attacking contributions. He's got three assists on the season and 12 bonus points, and he is the top-scoring defender out of everyone.

Captain considerations

This week I think Sounders fans have a few good choices for captain: (a) try and pick an outstanding performer from El Trafico, (b) pick a "safe" option, or (c) roll the dice on a homer choice.

(a) El Trafico had exactly one shutout between 2021-23, a 2-0 win for LAG in the Open Cup. Every other game has been goals on goals on goals, some incredible and some incredibly stupid. The three derby matches in 2023 featured a total of 14 goals! The Galaxy should have a better defense this year, which may lead to more "normal" scorelines, but they also have maybe the best offense in the league. I am expecting fireworks. I'd organize the different attacking players into tiers:

  • Tier 1: Denis Bouanga (FWD $10.4M) and Riqui Puig (MID $11.2M). Bouanga is the reigning golden boot winner and Puig has been sensational this year. You don't need to overthink it here.
  • Tier 2: Dejan Joveljic (FWD $11.0M), Eduard Atuesta (MID $8.5M), and Joseph Paintsil (MID $10.7M). Joveljic and Paintsil have been on fire this year, and Atuesta is heavily familiar with El Trafico. Joveljic has been in full training and should be in line to start. Any of these players could take over the match.
  • Tier 3: Timothy Tillman (MID $8.9M), Gabriel Pec (FWD $7.3M), and Mark Delgado (MID $8.4M). Tillman and Delgado have been steady presences this year, with good bonus point numbers and goal contributions. Overshadowed a bit by their teammates, but they are good players and could steal the show this weekend. Pec is young and breaking into the starting lineup. But as we saw, he was one of the most dangerous players for LAG, including where Paintsil was not having success. He could break out on a national stage here.
  • Tier 39: Kei Kamara (FWD ?). This man is 39 years old and he could be starting El Trafico. He's not even in MLS Fantasy yet, but you could pick him for the memes I guess, if he is added. Who knows, maybe he bags a brace off the bench!

(b) There are a few "safe" options out there, players who score consistently and are the focus of their team's attacks. The first who comes to mind is Luciano Acosta (CIN MID $11.9M), who is averaging 7.5 points per week. He's 11th by average points for players with at least 4 matches, and 6th in total points. He is a consistent and high-scoring option, who has a competitive home match coming up. It is hard to go wrong, unless you manage to find the hat-trick of the week. Thiago Almada (ATL MID $10.4M) and Chicho Arango (RSL FWD $10.7M) fit a similar profile, though each is on the road this week. Luis Suarez (MIA FWD $11.2M) is worth a look if he is starting with a reasonable lineup around him, though I expect Miami to take it easy this weekend and go for it in Monterrey. And don't forget Carles Gil (NE MID $10.8M). Porter guaranteed a New England win, and you can bet Gil will be involved if NE wins. Gil still has a top average even though his last two games were poor. He can and will almost certainly bounce back soon.

(c) Personally, I am going full homer this week by captaining Morris (FWD $6.1M) and planning to use Frei ($6.1M) and Yeimar ($6.0M). I could make cases for Rusnak ($6.8M)–likely penalty taker and will be the #10 that attacking play will run through, had 3 BP last week–or Ruidiaz ($7.9M) with the best npxG per 90 on the team (ignoring Moose and his 101 minutes). Or I could point out that Cristian ($6.8M) had 0.4 xA last week compared to his 0.5 xA in the four previous games combined. But I have a feeling about Morris now that he's back on the wing, having seen the same kind of danger against LAG that we have come to expect from him. I understand that choosing Morris this week is not a logical decision, but I made the Fantasy Champions League already and want to believe in the squad this week so I am following my heart.

Bargain bin

This week's thresholds for the Bargain Bin: GK $6.0M, DEF $5.5M, MID $6.5M, FWD $6.5M

  • GK Alec Kann (CIN $5.5M) or Evan Louro ($4.5M) from Cincy. It's not clear which of these two will be starting, as Kann is working back from injury but has logged some lower-league minutes lately (and apparently did terrible?). So I've lightly penciled in Louro for now. As I said above, I think Cincy's stout defense could make Louro (or Kann) a super play this week.
  • GK Matt Freese (NYC $6.0M). NYC's offense is very poor, but their defense is roughly league average. Atlanta will be missing their best striker and have not scored a road goal all season. I'm not saying Freese is a good pick, but it's an option if you want someone cheap and want to bet against Atlanta.
  • DEF Marino Hinestroza (CLB $4.9M). One of the beneficiaries of Cucho's absence, Hinestroza was playing as a winger against Nashville and Tigres. At times he looked like the most dangerous player on the field against Tigres. IF he starts again – a significant possibility if CLB rotates ahead of the CCC match – he could be an intriguing play. Something to keep in mind though is that CLB is hosting DC, who have the highest xG in the league. It could be a high-scoring game (and negative points for CLB defenders).
  • DEF Nick Hagglund (CIN $5.5M). Hagglund appears to be almost all the way back from injury, and he may be the first-choice CB beside Robinson and Miazga. He only played 45 minutes last week, but that should not be a long-term issue. He's another cheap way to get a foothold in Cincy's defense (if he's starting of course!).
  • DEF DJ Taylor (MIN $5.3M). Taylor is a starter for Minnesota, one of the stronger early-season teams. They blanked LAFC at home (perhaps with a healthy dose of plain good luck) and host RSL this week. RSL has also been a good team, so a clean sheet isn't guaranteed. And since Taylor does not really score bonus points, a clean sheet is really what you'd be looking for with him. But he's there if you want a relatively cheap starter who has a reasonable clean sheet chance.
  • MID Nacho Gil (NE MID $5.6M). Carles's younger brother, Nacho has looked like New England's most dangerous player lately. I would not be surprised if he starts again and scores again, as he did against the Fire two weeks ago. His historical stats do not suggest he should be this dangerous, so it may have been a flash in the pan, but I'm keeping my eyes on him. If your budget is stressed, he could be worth a flier.
  • MID Jacob Shaffelburg (NSH MID $6.5M). Started against the Crew and was credited with two assists. Plus, he had a banger in CCC against Miami. If he's made his way into the starting lineup, he could make the leap this year. I might wait until NSH is facing a worse team than Philly, but he has a lot of potential.
  • MID Hannes Wolf (NYC MID $6.4M). Advanced stats suggest Wolf is basically driving the NYCFC attack all on his own, with 1.5xA versus 2.5xA for the whole rest of the team combined (and no one else over 0.4xA). He has not yet been awarded with an assist, but that dam is likely to break eventually. His 6 bonus points on the season aren't super impressive, but it's not far off Santi Rodriguez, costing $9.0M, who has 9 on the season. If (when?) Wolf starts earning assists, his points should be solid.
  • FWD Jamal Thiare (ATL FWD $4.3M). Thiare started against Toronto for 3 points while Giakoumakis was away on international duty, then came off the bench for an injured Giakoumakis and scored a brace against Chicago. He'll likely get the nod against NYC this weekend with Giakoumakis out again. He's about as cheap of a starter as you can find! I wouldn't expect another brace, of course, but he'll have added confidence this week.

Thanks for reading along, everyone! Good luck this week.