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MLS Fantasy Week 9: Bad Beats

Sometimes good bets don't pay off.

Last Updated
6 min read

I know some of you out there have been suffering from some bad beats recently. It was impossible to anticipate Cucho's bizarre meltdown, leading to a red card and a big zero points a couple of weeks ago. And if you listened to me and went with Christian Arango as captain last week, I'm sure you were wildly disappointed with his 3-point total – I certainly was. (Christian Benteke, on the other hand, was definitely a hit.)

These things happen. The question is what you take away from it. Did you miscalculate, underestimate, or miss something crucial? Or was it just sheer luck? I still feel confident that Arango was a good call. According to Opta data pulled from, Arango had 0.9 non-penalty expected goals, with 6 shots, four on target. That's his highest npxG on the season, the second-most shots he's taken in a game, and the most shots he's put on target in a game (his hat-trick came on 3 shots, 3 on target of course). His npxG was higher than goal scorers Benteke, Suarez and Joveljic. Sometimes the shots just don't fall. Them's the beats.

Week 8 Schedule & Matchups

Bye: Philadelphia

This Saturday's matchday is another slate of 7:30 p.m. local kickoffs for everyone. Reasonable for local attendance, terrible for anyone trying to watch multiple matches. There are six "early" matches on the East Coast, three Central, then one Mountain and two Pacific time matches.

You have your pick of the early matches if you want to set up switcheroos. The two I'm most interested in are the Crew hosting the Timbers and Miami hosting Nashville. The Timbers have conceded 11 goals in their past three matches and Cucho is set to start again, hopefully with a refreshed perspective after his recent disciplinary suspensions. I don't see the Timbers keeping a clean sheet here. Evander is perhaps matchup-proof, but I don't see him as a necessity this week. One point of concern is that Columbus have another Champions Cup match on Wednesday, so they may keep a bit in the tank this weekend. However, they have had a week of rest and the Wednesday match is home, so I don't think they'll rotate much, if at all.

Miami is, of course, Team Messi, the goat, who has scored 9 or more fantasy points in every match this season (including his 45 minutes against the Rapids, where he still managed to tally 3 bonus points for key plays and shots). And Nashville is bad. Miami already wiped them out in CCC, though they are dealing with a major mess of injuries in their defense (as bad or worse, I dare say, than some of the Sounders' issues this year). However, Nashville has a -5 GD and -5.2 xGD in league play, so it's a safe bet that Miami will be able to outscore the visitors.

The two late games are LAFC hosting NYRB and of course Seattle hosting Vancouver. LAFC and NYRB are both good teams, with LAFC being especially good at home. You can probably take Bouanga or Tillman with some confidence, considering how far NYRB have to travel, but the Red Bulls have the lowest expected goals conceded in the league and are tied with a handful of other teams in only conceding 7 goals on the season. I find it hard to gauge this match.

Vancouver have been a good team this year overall, with road wins at San Jose and Dallas, a feat Seattle failed to do, but also have home losses to RSL and LAG. Seattle is unbeaten at home and dog-walked Montreal in their last home match. Will that Seattle show up again at home, or will the attack look hapless against the better defenders of Vancouver? I think Seattle are a good bet to keep a clean sheet either way, and the later kickoff lines up well with a switcheroo from the early games. Plus, Seattle has long had the edge in this Cascadia rivalry. I've got three Seattle players in my lineup right now: Frei, Rusnak and Ragen, though Frei and Rusnak are probably the ones to be cut for the switcheroo if my bench players do well.

There are also two Sunday matches: Charlotte hosting Minnesota and the Galaxy hosting the Earthquakes. I think Charlotte has the edge here, but I don't really like their offensive players over other options. Privett in defense and Kahlina at GK are probably the best picks, though you may want Malanda if he is back from injury. For our second El Clasico match, it seems a great move to load up on Galaxy attackers; I would strongly consider Cristian Espinoza (SJ MID $10.5M). Espinoza did not have a goal last week but he did have six (6!) bonus attacking points. He is also on a streak of three straight road matches with an assist. I don't have him at the moment, but I may swap him in for Rusnak if I end up freeing up salary elsewhere.

Captain Considerations

  • Lionel Messi (MIA MID $12M). Don't overthink this*.

Bargain Bin

  • Zack Steffen (COL GK $5.5M). Colorado finally kept a clean sheet, just after I had given up on them, this time on the road to San Jose. This week they get Dallas at home. Dallas is getting a little more healthy, so maybe a full match of Illaramendi improves their attack, but they are still a weak team overall. If you need a keeper under $6.0M, I think Setffen is the best pick. You could also take a Colorado defender like Moise Bombito ($5.8M), Andreas Maxso ($5.7M), or Keegan Rosenberry ($5.4M).
  • Tomas Aviles (MIA DEF $5.4M). As noted above, Nashville is not great this year and Miami have recent familiarity with the matchup. If you just want a cheap Miami defender, Aviles is a solid pick.
  • George Campbell (MTL DEF $4.8M). Montreal was run over by Seattle two weeks ago, including Campbell in defense, and only have one clean sheet to their name. But they're hosting Orlando, who they shut out week 1, and they're finally home after an extremely long road trip. Campbell is probably your go-to super cheap option if you just want a guy with clean sheet potential.
  • Diego Gomez (MIA MID $6.1M). A frequent recommendation here, Gomez has been essential to Miami's success in recent matches (when they've had it). If you need a mid under $7.0M, he is undoubtedly your best option.
  • Albert Rusnak (SEA MID $7.8M). If you want a high-upside midfielder under $8.0M, I think Rusnak is your guy. If you think Seattle will beat Vancouver, I have to imagine Rusnak will be thoroughly involved. He's averaging nearly 7 points in his 90-minute matches. I think Rusnak is just getting started this season.
  • Enzo Copetti (CLT FWD $6.2M) or Patrick Agyemang (CLT FWD $5.6M). Copetti is a DP #9 striker at $6.2M, as he has fallen $1.3M in price this year after some weak early performances and a pair of substitute appearances coming back from injury. He had an assist last week, with just 5 points. But Charlotte are still integrating new DP winger Liel Abada and Copetti has been injury hampered. He's a reasonable pick, with decent underlying xG+xA stats for his minutes. Agyemang, a 22-year-old, has been decent as Copetti's replacement, so if he's in the lineup, he's still a reasonable pick. If you want to run a cheap forward this week, Charlotte is where I'd look.

Odds and Ends

  • I like Amine Bassi (HOU MID $8.7M) a lot this week. Austin are not a good team and Bassi's starts have averaged 7.5 points. He's reasonably priced, so I'm happily taking him.
  • Another player I'm high on this week is Aidan Morris (CLB MID $9.8M). He's been on a hot streak lately, between CCC and league play, often looking like the most dangerous player for Columbus. He hasn't had a game with less than four fantasy points, so he has a nice floor. And it's a great matchup with Portland. I think I like him ever so slightly more than Espinoza, but it's close.
  • *If you really need other captain options, because you're weird and refuse to use Messi, I think Puig is an okay second option, then it's probably Benteke, Almada, Suarez, Joveljic, Bouanga, and Paintsil in a close jumble. And possibly Giakoumakis if he's healthy, though I think he'll have a tough time with Cincy's CBs.

Good luck this week! May you avoid all the bad beats, unless you're playing me in head-to-head. Then I guess I'll try and provide the bad beats 😸